More and more it seems as if CBS scripted shows are looking like infomercials for Microsoft’s Surface RT.
Evidently this has been the buzz in some media sectors since last November, but I don’t watch much TV so I didn’t see it for myself until a few weeks back when a couple of minutes in a Hawaii Five-0 episode I was half-watching out of the corner of my eye while working on an article suddenly turned into what was unmistakably a commercial for Windows RT and the Surface tablet. Since then I’ve seen more obvious product placements for Surface RT in episodes of NCIS LA and CSI.
We’ve grown used to seeing demonstrations of computer tech in these police proceedurals, but rarely anything that looks so obviously like a commercial. In all instances, the camera lingers on a shot of the GUI formerly known as Metro. In some cases we see Skype being used, with the brand conspicously evident. In others, we get treated to watching a handheld tablet turn into something resembling a laptop, perhaps a netbook, when the device is connected with it’s cover keyboard. Wow! Microsoft magic at work.
It’s such a shameless hustle that I’m sure it must embarrass the creative talents behind the shows involved to no end. The tiffany network, however, probably feels no shame at all so long as the price is right, which I’m sure it is. Force-feeding an audience the sight of their favorite characters getting up close and personal with a cool new Microsoft product is undoubtedly a more effective promotion for Surface than the dancing teen commercials that left many of us scratching our heads and asking “what the hell was that?”
I’m betting these placements, which seem to have become a staple this season on at least Hawaii 5-0, where a shot of Metro seems to have become a weekly ritual, are where a lot of the $898 million Redmond spent promoting Windows 8 and Surface went. We’re not likely to get any figures on this from either Redmond or 51 West 52nd Street however.
The consensous on RT is that it’s something of a toy operating system. Some say it’s done nothing but weaken the Windows on tablet brand–as if that’s possible. The smart money crowd is expecting Microsoft to give-up on RT sooner rather than later. Almost everybody says RT isn’t long for this world.
Everybody, that is, but Mary Jo Foley, whose job it is to figure-out what’s going on in Redmond for ZDNet. She tends to believe Micorsoft when they profess undying support for RT because she believes they don’t have any choice. They absolutely have to have something that runs on ARM. But she’s not convinced that the Windows mobile environment we see today is the same as the one we’ll see tomorrow:
“Windows Phone runs on ARM. Windows RT runs on ARM. Both use the NT core. And Microsoft is trying to unify the programming interfaces, frameworks and dev tools across these platforms. Though there isn’t a common Windows Store for Windows Phone and Windows RT, there’s no reason this will always be the case.
“The differences between a Windows phone, tablet and phablet are diminishing. Will it always be the case that a five-inch phone must run an operating system called “Windows Phone OS”? Or could it run something called “Windows RT”? (Or vice versa?) What if the Windows Phone OS and Windows RT both evolve so they become, for all intents and purposes, one OS that can run on mobile devices without a desktop?”
Meanwhile, Microsoft is busy trying to unload their Surface tablets in a way that doesn’t make them look too desparate. This started a few weeks back when they lowered prices by 30% on the RT devices, which had attracted very little interest from buyers. The lower prices might have helped. There were conflicting reports last week that Walmart had temporily sold out of Surface RTs.
Now Microsoft has announced they’re dropping the price on the Surface Pro, which runs the full-fledged Wintel version of Windows 8. If this quote from The Verge is any indication, Redmond is again going out of their way to keep this from appearing to be a move made out of desperation:
“Microsoft has confirmed to The Verge that between August 4th and August 29th customers in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the US will pay $100 less for Surface Pro. ‘We’ve been seeing great worldwide success with Surface RT pricing and keyboard-cover promotions over the past several months and are proud to offer Surface Pro at more affordable prices starting today.'”
All the product placements we’ve been seeing on TV, as well as the joint advertising campaign pushing Dell’s RT tablet, only support the notion that Redmond isn’t yet ready to give up on either Windows RT or Microsoft branded Surface tablets:
“Microsoft recently hinted at refreshed Surface RT and Surface Pro models. The company is expected to refresh Surface Pro with a Haswell processor, and Microsoft has been testing Surface devices with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor. We’re told that Microsoft is planning several new accessories for Surface, including a battery-equipped keyboard cover that the company has previously teased. New accessory colors are also expected soon.”
Market watchers are expecting the price of the current crop of Surface devices to drop even more once Redmond is ready to unveil next generation Surface tablets. My bet is that the new devices will also be released with more realistic pricing.
Long range, I don’t expect to see Microsoft be much more than a niche player in the tablet field. For the forseeable future, I see the mobile market, both phones and tablets, being increasingly dominated by Android and other, GNU/Linux, devices.