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Reged: 07/13/14
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Rant about 2-in-1/convertible tablet/laptop marketing
      #46726 - 07/20/14 11:47 PM

Well, I didn't know where to put this, so I'll put this here I guess.

Question: What do you guys think about the marketing behind devices like the Surface? Devices marketed as 2-in-1's, convertible laptops, etc. What can be done to improve it?

I've been thinking about getting one ever since the original Surface got announced, and it's been frustrating seeing the marketing and the devices available.

My main grips are:
1) There's no focus on what the devices can DO
2) The designs are weird
3) The target audience is wrong

1) There's no focus on what the devices can DO
As an average consumer, someone who has no clue about the tech industry or its products, my biggest problem with the marketing is that there just doesn't seem to be a focus or a message behind these devices.

This commercial for the original Surface pretty much sums up what I mean:

Watching this commercial, I have absolutely no idea what the Surface is for, what it does, or why I need to get one. And I understand, maybe it's just an initial commercial to grab your attention and make you aware about the Surface's existence.

But I mean, just look at what Apple did with the iPad:

I think it's a very exciting and eye catching commercial, but more importantly, it at least tells you not only what the device can do, but what it's PRIMARILY designed to do: 1) Reading emails (which can suck on a iPhone)
2) Reading books (which can suck on a iPhone)
3) Looking at photos (which can suck on a iPhone)
4) Watching movies (which can suck on a iPhone)
5) Surfing the net (which can suck on a iPhone)

They accomplish so much in 30 seconds, and I think it's a cooler commercial than the Surface's.

But going back to the bigger picture, it's not just about the commercials.

Although Microsoft is still improving both the device and marketing, I feel like Microsoft is focusing too much on emphasizing the Surface and the concept of Windows 8 devices, as some kind of toaster-oven that can save you space and money.

I forgot what Microsoft exactly said, but they claimed that something like 99% of iPad users had a Macbook or vice versa. The point though is that when you see so many people buying tablets AND laptops, and some of them even paying a premium for Apple products, I'm really not sure if positioning Windows 8 devices as some kind of value machine is that compelling.

I think what Microsoft need(ed) to do was look closer at how Steve Jobs pitched the original iPad. Personally, when I look at it, I thought Jobs had a REALLY tough pitch to make and that you could see he was struggling to. Because I think everyone knew that a lot of people were going to basically call out the iPad as a big iPod Touch.


So what Steve Jobs did was VERY CLEARLY acknowledge the situation, and argue how the iPad is UNIQUE to a smartphone and laptop. How it can DO STUFF that neither other devices can do. And he then demonstrated some very tangible things and situations where the iPad could be a useful device. Like:
1) Reading emails (which can suck on a iPhone)
2) Reading books (which can suck on a iPhone)
3) Looking at photos (which can suck on a iPhone)
4) Watching movies (which can suck on a iPhone)
5) Surfing the net (which can suck on a iPhone)

Going back to the Surface and similar devices, I still don't know what the KILLER feature of the device is. I personally think it's the stylus, and it seems like Microsoft thinks that as well. But they won't ACKNOWLEDGE it by FOCUSING on it. They still just have the stylus as another feature, equivalent to being able to plug in a USB into the Surface.

The bottom line is that I think that Microsoft needs to focus on what the device can DO instead of just listing out FEATURES. Instead of saying it has a stylus or a USB, SHOW some plausible situations.

Situation 1: Student has PowerPoint running during a college lecture. Suddenly the professor starts writing math equations on a white board (or hell, maybe he has a Surface too). Have a student on the right with a Macbook flailing to get out a paper and have our protagonist just insert a new slide and follow the professor.

Situation 2: Have somebody with a variety of video files and movies. The user with the Mac has to convert them into MP4 or something and manage all their media with iTunes before transferring the file to an iPad. Versus our protagonist who just picks up their Surface and takes it with them since they don't have to convert or transfer anything.

I don't know, I'm not a marketer so those 2 are the only things I can come up with on the fly. But my point is that instead of just having features and leaving it up for the consumer to imagine what they could do with the Surface, I think Microsoft should try to get their marketing to fill up people's imaginations for them.

2) The designs are weird
Basically I hate all the designs of the convertibles.

I hated the original Surface's as well as Lenovo's designs, because I hate the thought of having the keyboard lie on the surface of a table. I definitely wouldn't want to do that in a Starbucks or something after the last customer left coffee stains and crumbs all over the table. Also, it just looks silly.

I hated the Dell XPS 12(?)'s design, because the flipping mechanism looked really flimsy and unwieldy. Also, it just looks silly.

I liked the Vaio Flip's design at first, until I actually held one in the hand and realized how unwieldy the flipping mechanism was, and how important it was for the device to be flat.

And then you just had ridiculous stuff like this:

Not only do all the designs suck, but a really important thing that the devices get wrong is the aspect ratio.

I just don't understand why a consumer would want to buy a tablet that has a TINY 16:9 ratio screen. I get it, movies. But movies are sort of on the lower part of the list I want to do with a tablet, compared to reading a book, surfing the net, etc. It's not a coincidence that the iPad and now the Surface Pro 3 have their home buttons positioned for portrait mode.

I also understand that it's expensive to do a non-standard screen. But I feel like the battle's already lost if you're just going to completely ignore the consumer experience for cost purposes. It's in line with the whole toaster-oven and saving money mentality.

3) The target audience is wrong
I acknowledge that maybe I'm totally wrong, since smart business people have spent countless days on this topic and did their research about costs and demand.

But I just don't understand why it seems like the main target audience for these devices seem to revolve around business people. At best, it seems like the Vaio Flip focused more on designers and there's some Surface videos that focus on some interesting users like doctors or race car teams.

But I think that devices like the Surface make the most sense for students.

Students probably would be the most receptive to the toaster-oven pitch. Not only do they need to save money, but they also need to save space given that they travel so much.

Students probably would be the most receptive to the whole "work and play" message. Business people who do travel a lot, probably have a company laptop issued to them. They probably want to have a separate devices to segregate their professional and personal device. Students on the other hand are students 24/7.

Students probably could use the Surface uniquely, instead of just as a tablet or a laptop. I would have loved renting ebook textbooks on a Surface Pro 3, being able to save myself from having to lug around a textbook with me. I could also write on the ebook with the Surface Pro 3's stylus. For group meetings, it's easier to practice a presentation with the Surface Pro 3 or share it around during discussions.

Bottom line, I just don't get why something that's directly competing with the iPad and MacBook Air, CONSUMER devices extremely popular with students, are being marketed to business people.

The only reasons I could think of is that either the Windows 8 is more productive than an iPad (assuming that business people even look for productivity out of the iPad...), Windows 8 devices are out of the price reach for students, or Microsoft wants to go for an untapped market instead of competing with Apple.


In short, I just don't know what all these companies are doing.

I really think that Windows 8 and 2-in-1 devices have their place in the world. Maybe they won't replace tablets or laptops, at least for now. But I do think that there are some things that these devices could uniquely offer to consumers, and I feel like these companies aren't thinking about how real life people could use their products.

Edited by Akvod (07/20/14 11:49 PM)

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