Having clearly failed as a mass market device, it makes sense to focus Surface and more clearly define its use case. And, if that use case is productivity, then it also makes sense to kill Surface mini. That Nadella allegedly did just that is a great sign. Now he just needs to kill the whole line.
He makes a pretty compelling argument. I wanted to like Surface. Heck, I stood in line in the rain for a couple of hours to try one. But if I were going to buy a Windows machine I could get something cheaper and more powerful that’s still made well from Lenovo. $800 for a device with 64 GB of storage (much of it used by the OS and installed applications) and no keyboard is not a value, no matter how nice the screen is.
Thompson’s deconstruction of Satya Nadella’s argument for making Surface is pretty damning. I wonder if he isn’t giving it one last chance before pulling the plug because it doesn’t seem convincing.
If Microsoft had convinced itself that it needed to make its own hardware in order to compete with Apple it should have done a reset like Apple did with iOS: make a new operating system brand so existing licenses with OEMs wouldn’t apply. But it could never do that because of its “Windows” brand fetish.
The only problem with Thompson’s argument is he doesn’t explain how Microsoft is going to make money licensing an operating system in a world where operating systems are free. That is still Microsoft’s existential dilemma.