The future of tech giant Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) could rest on the fate a product that will hit the shelves this weekend. Unlike BlackBerry, which purchased a Super Bowl ad to showcase BlackBerry 10, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s product has received little fanfare, and most consumers probably aren’t aware that it’s coming.
And yet, should the device fail to sell, Microsoft’s future may be in jeopardy.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro will be available February 9
Coming about three months after the launch of the Surface RT, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Surface Pro will be available at retail outlets and online starting February 9. Although it shares the name “Surface” with the tablet launched last October, the Surface Pro is vastly different.
It is the first tablet built by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) itself that will run the full version of Windows 8. For those not technically inclined, this means it is a tablet that can run any program written for Windows (to be fair, some programs that demand extremely powerful computers will likely not run well on the device).
Full Microsoft Office? Check. Adobe’s Creative Suite? Check. The Bloomberg Terminal? Check. Activision-Blizzard’s Diablo III? Check.
That’s cool, but why does Microsoft’s future depend on the Surface Pro’s success?
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s business has long been dependent on enterprise — business — users. Microsoft may be able survive losing a chunk of the consumer market to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) or Google (to some extent, it already has: tablet shipments are growing rapidly while sales of traditional PCs are declining), but it won’t survive losing businesses.
One of the single biggest threats to Microsoft’s enterprise business is the iPad.
As Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) executives highlight at every Apple product event, the iPad is becoming increasingly embraced by business professionals: by doctors going from patient to patient; by restaurant hostesses seating guests; and by associates, checking out customers at remodeled J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) stores.
As more and more businesses embrace the iPad, more business-orientated software will be written for it, ultimately threatening Microsoft’s empire.
The Surface Pro should challenge Apple’s iPad
The Pro starts at $899 — significantly more than the $499 base iPad 4 (and about three times the cost of the large Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire HD). So typical consumers looking for a tablet probably won’t be interested.
But for business users seeking to access their Microsoft Access on a tablet, or artists looking for a tablet that can run the full version of Adobe Photoshop, there will be few alternatives.
It is clear that Apple recognizes the threat. Not so coincidently, the Cupertino tech giant will release an iPad with 128GB of storage space starting February 5 — just four days before the Surface Pro goes on sale.