Microsoft’s Surface Go: iPad Killer?

I’m going to spoil the question in the headline1 right up front: no, I don’t think the Surface Go is going to “kill” the iPad. Will it outsell the iPad? No. Will it be just as niche a product as the other Surface computers? Probably.

Too often, people view products as dollar signs first, and products second. Yes, price is a factor when making any purchase, but I don’t think that Microsoft is going to move the needle much by releasing this product. Yes, with it’s similar size, build, and price tag, it absolutely is a direct competitor to the iPad, but I don’t see how this solves problems for real people. At least, not in a way that a multitude of other Windows machines are already doing. I see 2 major problems with the Surface Go.

Problem 1: Software

This is the biggest one, and it’s a major reason I’m not even pondering one of these things. As one would expect, the Surface Go runs regular old Windows, which means you’ll be running Windows 10 with Windows apps.

I work in an office where almost everyone has a touch screen laptop that folds into a “tablet mode”. The number of times I have seen someone purposely touch their screen to do something is close to zero, and the number of people who ever go to tablet mode is exactly zero. Even the one guy who has a Surface uses a keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse because he “hates the trackpad and touch is just too imprecise.” He likes how it looks, though.

I don’t blame my co-workers at all, Windows is not touch friendly. Yes, it has been designed for touch input, but I wouldn’t say it’s enjoyable to use that way.

And I’m just talking about Windows 10-optimized apps, most apps people actually use on Windows is still the old style app that hasn’t been optimized for touch at all.

Problem 2: Price

Despite these issues, Microsoft isn’t even beating Apple in the price war. In fact, when you add the things you will probably want to get with the Surface Go, the difference is more striking.

At $399 starting, the Surface Go is $70 more expensive than the iPad already. If you want to get the official pen(cil) for each device, that’s going to drive you up another $99 each, and the Surface Keyboard is another $129 while you can get a pretty good iPad keyboard for like $69. For those keeping track, that’s:

  • iPad only: $329
  • Surface Go only: $399

And if you get the keyboard and stylus:

  • iPad: $477
  • Surface Go: $627

In fairness, the iPad comes with 32GB of storage and the Surface Go has 64GB. How much storage each OS needs aside, that’s a definite difference. That said, if you want to go up to the 128GB model of either device, that will cost an extra $100 for the iPad and $150 for the Surface Go.

I know price isn’t everything. God knows, as an Apple fan, I get it. But the fact that Apple is still lower cost in every way here than the Windows option is notable.

Takeaway

I’m not the target audience for the Surface Go, I totally get it. But as a product, I don’t quite see who this is going to appeal to. I certainly don’t think it will appeal to people who are buying iPads today, as one of the big things that makes people get iPads is that it is not a traditional desktop computer (often, specifically that it’s not Windows). I also don’t see how it appeals to Windows fans, as it doesn’t really do anything that windows fans are typically drawn to (cheaper, more customizable, desktop-style software, etc.)

It feels, much like the early Surface tablets did, that this is a product where Apple is trying to be Apple more than they are trying to be themselves. I think this product could carve out a niche in 2018/19 and I hope people find some cool uses for it, but I don’t see how this becomes a wide success with its current feature set and pricing.

I like Microsoft overall, and I do wish them the best, but this product just isn’t doing it for me right now.


  1. I wish I could remember who I heard this from originally, but it was something to the effect of “if a headline ends in a question mark, the answer is no.”