The Microsoft Tablet Disaster was so easy to Predict

bgr-surface-red-touch-coverWell, that was quick.  Nine months ago, Microsoft made a big deal about getting into the Tablet business. And now nine months later, Microsoft is writing off $900 Million worth of Tablets that have been occupying a warehouse.   Not only the major write off, but now that the outlook and confusion of what’s next for Microsoft looms, the stock price dropped 10%, losing $30 Billion in market value.  Ouch.  

I hate being right!!!  I just hate it. The reason I hate it, is because it seems like the obvious should be obvious to everyone.  This tablet launch just had disaster screaming all over it.  Sometimes the answers are so obvious, yet people are blinded by not asking the right question.  They just go ahead with wrong answers. For Microsoft, they missed a bunch of right questions?  

Q: What business are we in?   
A: We do software really well.  Especially when we are in a monopolistic position.  We kinda suck at hardware.  Did you see what we did on Zune?  That wasn’t pretty.   

Q: Do we have a leap-frog technology? Is the Microsoft Surface product better, different or cheaper?  
A: Not really different.  It’s like a really nice iPad with a very bad and cheap plastic lid. And better?  Well it is better than a tablet, which people use for fun.  But it’s nowhere near a Macbook Air which people use for work.  So we’re better than one and worse than the other.  We’re a bit confused but we hope the consumer gets it.  And we are going to charge a significant premium, because we are Microsoft and we always do.   So I guess it’s not really better, cheaper or different.  But, we have lots of resources and stores of our own.  Well, not a lot of stores, and they aren’t very crowded.  But we hope this does well? 

Q: Will it be pretty easy to communicate the point of difference?
A:  Not really easy.  We are going to do ads with geeky people dancing and closing the lid. A lot.  People might think they are laptops.  But we’ll press the screen so they know it’s like their iPad, only it has a lid.  We won’t try to out-cool Apple.  We’ll try to be cool, as in “the coolest kid in the Science club” kind of cool.

Q: Apple is already on their 4th tablet and likely has 3 years of incremental innovation in the pipeline?  Samsung Galaxy is an amazing product and they are killing it on cool innovation.  Do we have any R&D innovation beyond the initial launch?    
A:  No.  Is that a problem?  

Q: If we are so good at software, and the world has moved to Apps, which is sort of like software, why don’t we take all our energy and expertise in the software business and start applying that to Apps?  
A:  Wow, that’s a good question, but we’ve already ordered the plastic lids for the Tablets.  Why don’t we do both.  But truth be told, we kinda suck at Apps.    

These questions would have allowed us to look at the vision, promise, strategy, story, freshness and culture that would showcase how ill prepared Microsoft was for the Surface launch. Here’s an example of how a brand like Special K uses the promise, story, freshness, and culture to help guide their brand.

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Answering these 5 questions also helps to map out the Microsoft Brand Strategy Road Map.   It might also highlight how wrong the surface is to the overall Microsoft brand. Here’s an example of what the Brand Strategy Road Map looks like.

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Predicting Disaster Was Pretty Easy

In the spirit of predicting this disaster, I wrote a story last June on the how the Microsoft Surface would be a disaster.  Like I said, I hate being right.  Click on the story below:  

Why Does Microsoft Keep Copying Apple?

At the time, the response i got back was 50/50, with half of the people criticizing the Microsoft Surface launch and the other half criticizing me for criticizing the Surface launch.  I always figure 50/50 is a good ratio to stir the pot.  But, I was starting to think I might be going overboard on being an Apple lover.  Here’s a summary of my view.

Getting into the Tablet Business Feels like Zune

Getting into hardware is a big gamble and not something that fits with Microsoft’s strengths.  To be a success, you either have to be better, different or cheaper and this feels like none of those.  Just like the Zune, it feels as though they are late and aren’t really offering anything that’s a game-changer to the category.  Like most categories at the stage where tablets are, until someone really shakes it up, the next few years are likely all about constant small innovation, new news each year with Apple leading the way on the high-end and Samsung’s cost innovation will likely squeeze Microsoft right out of the category.  The analysts are so excited by the launch that the MSFT stock price is down 1.3%.

The Best Strategic Answers Start with the Best Strategic Questions

 

To read more on How to Write a Brand Plan, read the presentation below:

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At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to find your brand positioning or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

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Graham is the voice of the modern Brand Leader. He started Beloved Brands, knowing he could “Make Brands better and Brand Leaders better™”. His Beloved Brands blog has 2 million views, and his public speaking appearances inspire Brand Leaders to love what they do. The idea behind Beloved Brands is the more love you can generate with your consumers, the more power you have in the market which drives higher growth and profits for your brand. As a brand coach, Graham helps to find growth where others couldn’t, creating Brand ideas consumers love and Brand Plans everyone can follow. For Brand Leaders wanting to reach their full potential The Brand Leadership Center offers workshops on strategic thinking, analytics, planning, positioning, creative briefs, judging advertising and media. Graham spent 20 years leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, General Mills and Coke, rising through the ranks up to VP Marketing. Graham played a major role in helping Pfizer win Marketing Magazine’s Marketer of the Year award. Beloved Brands has a robust Client list that includes NFL Players Inc, NFLPA, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Earls Kitchen + Bar, 3M, 649 Lottery, Sunlight, Carlsberg, Slimquick, Red Racer, Shagri-la Hotel, Canada’s Wildlife Health and Fluke.

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4 thoughts on “The Microsoft Tablet Disaster was so easy to Predict
  1. Jeff MacKay

    1. That ad is terrible. All it says is, “Us too. Kind of.” Seems like they really put a lot of work into the latch mechanism for the tablet and cover. They’re obviously proud of it. So proud that it’s all they seem to care about. Which might be a large part of the problem with the strategy.

    2. In my experience, when Zune was launched there were cool features like wireless sharing between devices that Microsoft didn’t talk about because they were worried not enough people had Zunes for it to matter. Interesting cycle. (And similarly vague ads.)

    3. Just a note on the Special K promise. Of course you’ll lose weight if all you eat for two meals a day is special k. You’ll probably also get scurvy.

     
    Reply
  2. Janine Gliener

    Thanks for this excellent article, clearly showing how to do marketing well, within a strong strategic framework.

     
    Reply
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