Microsoft, the VW family sedan of IT, wants to be tech's new Rolls-Royce
But it has one or two problems – Apple, for starters
Analysis If there's one message that stands out from Microsoft's big device day launch on Tuesday it's this: stop thinking about Redmond as the cheap option, because it wants to be seen as the premium brand.
For years Microsoft has sold itself as the dominant ecosystem for computing that won't cost you too much. The device day focus, however, shows that Microsoft is intent on going after the big spenders in the IT industry.
Take the Surface Book, for example. Again and again Microsoft hammered the message that this was the ultimate laptop, with no expense spared. That's reflected in the price – $1,500 will get you the base unit but you can spent nearly three grand on a top-of-the-range system with dual graphics chips and a terabyte of solid state storage.
That's a hell of a lot for a laptop. You can pick up a good-enough laptop for a tenth of the price of a top-of-the-range Surface Book running Windows. But there's a market for people willing to spend a fortune on top-spec hardware, both in the gaming market and also for the executive who likes to show off a bit.
As for fondleslabs, the Surface Pro 4 is an expensive option for a tablet, which is why Microsoft has always billed it as a PC that just happens to be in tablet form. While $899 is the base price, when you add in the keyboard, a bit more storage, RAM, and the pen you're well into four figures.
The same is true for phones. The Lumia 950 and 950XL were promoted (and priced) to compete with the highest-end cellphones on the market and billed as a possible replacement for PCs. Buy a docking station to go with it and the phones can handle 90 per cent of the applications most people use most of the time.
By contrast, the lowly Lumia 550 got little love from Redmond. It merited a couple of sentences in the long presentation and was reduced to a "if you want to try Windows 10 on the phone it's a cheap option."
Follow the money
There's just one problem with this strategy – other people have got there first and they'll be a bugger to dislodge.
When it comes to expensive hardware, Apple has ruled the roost for a long time. The MacBook, iPad, and iPhone lines are pricey, albeit with a very high-quality build and the apps to match. Cook & Co have earned serious coin with high-end hardware and will cling onto the sector like rabid weasels.
The Surface Book also takes aim at Alienware, although that's a longer-term play. The dual graphics capability of the laptop will match the Dell subsidiary's best laptops (once software that can take advantage of the hardware has been written), and gamers are notorious/beloved by vendors for being willing to spend big bucks on the right kit.
Microsoft wants a piece of both companies' markets, although the Apple bashing was more in evidence at yesterday's show in New York City – possibly because Microsoft has a financial stake in Dell and it's one of the firm's favorite partners.
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