Who will buy Microsoft’s Surface tablet?

Microsoft unveiled their Windows 8 powered tablet yesterday, which they will produce and sell themselves. This is a departure from their normal business model, Microsoft typically do not manufacture and sell their own hardware (the XBox and Microsoft branded peripherals like keyboards and mice are the exceptions), so one has to wonder – why a Microsoft tablet, and why now? And why try again? For those that don’t remember, this is probably the third attempt for Microsoft to get in on the tablet game. They had Windows XP Tablet PC Edition in their early 2000s which never went anywhere. There was also Microsoft Courier, an internal research product that Microsoft were working on between 2008 and 2010, but the project was cancelled and it never made it into production.

One can only speculate that they’re feeling the pressure from Apple’s runaway success of the iPad and the numerous other tablet flavors currently on the market. They’ve certainly never managed to get a slice of the smartphone market either, despite trying with the recent Windows Phone, which has only received lukewarm reception.

Is Apple’s talk of the ‘post-PC era’ finally starting to hurt Microsoft? I can only imagine they’re desperate not to be left behind in the coming years where it’s become clearly obvious that the primary computing device for casual computer users is no longer the desktop PC. With the power and convenience that people can carry around in their pockets with their smartphones, the majority of people’s usage of a computing device is no longer sitting at a desk and using a large beige box with a screen, keyboard and mouse attached to it. People want access to their information and services on the go.

So who is going to buy a Microsoft branded tablet? The Apple loyal fan base will buy any product with an Apple logo on it, but the past few years have shown that Apple have cracked the market for the average home user, and have sold mountains of iPhones and iPads to regular home users who may not have necessarily bought a new laptop or new desktop. In that respect, Apple’s talk of the ‘post-PC era’ really has begun – they started it, and they currently own it. I imagine there’s a few Microsoft loyal users who will feel more comfortable with a Microsoft product, because ‘its what they’re used to’. I still hear people who seem afraid to buy or use an Apple product because ‘it’s different’, and maybe Microsoft can cash in on this dwindling user base. Either way, I think Microsoft must be feeling it’s a now or never time to make a big entry into the tablet space. They’ve tried before and failed, but Apple is showing they can make it work. If Apple can make it work, then Microsoft must be thinking they need to get into the game otherwise they’re going to be left behind as providers of software for devices that no-one uses anymore….