(Disclosure:  Most of the vendors mentioned are clients of the author).

Microsoft just launched several additions to its Surface family: Earbuds, an updated set of headphones (that finally come in black), a new dock, and the Surface Go 2 and Surface Book 3.  It is interesting to look at a few of Microsoft’s competitive responses over the last two decades. 

It first responded to the threat that the PlayStation would replace PCs with an extremely well-funded Xbox effort that was successful. That was followed with the Zune, which was massively underfunded against a then-dominant iPod and poorly executed. It failed, and was followed by the Microsoft Phone. It had better funding, but ran up against the then-dominant iPhone – and was also poorly executed. It, too, failed.

Finally, MIcrosoft came up with the Surface to target the iPad threat; it has been successful so far. Credit  the fact the iPad hadn’t yet established itself, and Apple’s execution was lacking. 

The Xbox effort, which rolled out against a then-dominant Sony, represented the gold standard in terms of execution. But instead of using their enormous success and the team that created it as a standard for future efforts, Microsoft seemed to want to start over from scratch, resulting in uneven performance over the four efforts. 

Surface is being well managed, but the conditions that created it no longer exist.  The iPad Pro is less of a threat than the Chromebook, and they are vastly different products. And now, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how people work.  I think this will change how the Surface line evolves, so let’s take a closer look this week..

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