Microsoft Surface, which appears to be off to a mixed and ambiguous start on the other side of the Atlantic, just launched in France, right in time for the holidays. As with other markets, Microsoft has opted for a slow roll-out, choosing only to sell the Surface in a few major chains/distributors initially before expanding more broadly. Having launched this past weekend, French consumers can now pick-up the Surface online or in physical outlets at FNAC and Boulanger. As in the US, the Surface is priced to go head-to-head with iPad, a very different strategic approach than most tablet makers have taken. In France, the price stands at €589 for the 32GB version and €694 for the 64GB, which puts the Surface at €20 cheaper than the latest generation iPad (with wifi). Of course, you then need to spend an extra €120-€130 to buy the feature which probably makes the Surface stand out the most from its peers, the type cover keyboard.
The Surface has received some positive initial reviews in the States and France and recent Surface converts seem to love it, so at least there’s some good buzz around it. However, there are a couple of things about the Surface that may give consumers pause.
First, and probably most importantly, the Windows 8 app ecosystem is nowhere near as well-developed as its competitions’. To underscore this point – currently there are 700k apps in the AppStore and only 10k in the Windows store! This is a massive difference. Microsoft is, of course, pushing hard to rapidly grow this number and many app developers are now developing on Windows 8 (particularly given the up to 80% revenue share for developers). However the fact is that users of Windows 8 devices will have to wait a bit before they have the proliferation of apps that are available on iOS and Android. In a related point, with fewer apps, app support is also currently under-developed at this stage, although this will eventually change.
Another challenge is that the type cover keyboard, which in most reviews is considered to be an integral part of the Surface’s user experience, is not included in the price. Asking people to shell out another €120+ on top of almost €600 is a lot to ask. However, as mentioned, the Surface does have respectable reviews, is probably one of the highest quality tablets out there, and with its design (with type cover) and operating system, it’s probably one of the few tablets that might actually be able to replace a PC.