November Was “Best Month Ever” for Surface

Posted on December 12, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 27 Comments

November Was "Best Month Ever" for Surface

Microsoft claimed today that November was the “best month ever” for consumer Surface sales. Leaving aside that “consumer” caveat for a moment, I suspect that this milestone had more to do with holiday sale prices than with Microsoft’s stated reason.

“We’re having our best holiday ever,” Microsoft’s Bill Hall claimed in a Surface momentum post. “November was our best month ever for consumer Surface sales. The Best Buy-exclusive Surface bundle sold out on the first day. The momentum was seen worldwide. In the UK, we had the best single week for Surface ever and in Germany the Surface Pen became the best seller in PC Accessories on Amazon.com for over 12 hours.”

That all points to what I suspect is the real culprit for this best-ever month at retail, which is what “for consumer” really means: Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book have seen sharp but temporary price declines in recent days, driving sales to individuals higher. This supports my contention, by the way, that these products were priced too highly to begin with.

A couple of examples of those recent sales:

So this seems clear-cut: Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, which was released over a year ago and suffered through the most painful example of unreliable Microsoft hardware since the red-ringing Xbox 360, benefited greatly from lower prices.

Except that Microsoft muddied the waters with this.

“More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before,” Hall continued. “Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this. It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily. This makes our team so proud, because it means we’re doing good work.”

It also means that Apple screwed up big time. That two year-old devices from Microsoft are suddenly better than brand-new devices from Apple says more, I think, about what Apple just did than what Microsoft did a year earlier.

Put another way, I don’t believe that many Apple users were jumping ship to Surface a year ago, though I base that on personal experience only, as I must: I never hear from users who did such a thing, and I routinely hear from readers and listeners from the Microsoft and Apple communities. Suffice to say that disappointment with the new MacBook Pro is both loud and unprecedented. I’ve never seen Apple truly freak out such loyal customers before.

And you know what? It doesn’t matter.

That Surface did experience its best-ever month with consumers is just great, no matter the reason. Hopefully, Microsoft will learn from this episode and, in plotting its next generation devices, will do learn the lessons from Apple’s mistakes: Price those devices correctly—i.e. a bit lower—and deliver what customers are really asking for.

Hey, we can dream.

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Comments (28)

28 responses to “November Was “Best Month Ever” for Surface”

  1. Avatar

    6844

    I think the Surface Studio did wonders for promoting the Surface brand outside MS circles. MS hardware is really churning out compelling products now (Surface Studio, HoloLens, Surface Pro, Surface Hub).

    • Avatar

      5485

      In reply to kenhes:

      I think what is mostly pissing off customers is  combination of two things. 

      1) In terms of innovation the MacBook Pro line is being put into question in very clear terms. 

      2) The year after year increase in prices across all core products.  In this case is actually massive. It's not just the price on the tag,  but the accessories required for it work as well as the previous unit at least. On the top of  massive price increase in the tag they leave off the power extention? It's worst than MS leaving off the keyboard in the surface.  At least here,  color could be used as an excuse. 

       I have been contemplating buying one of this.  But Apple made it really difficult. For instance my monitor as a display port.  There is no certified solution/accessify to connect it to such a kind . I see no reason for me to have such kind of challenge even if I'm open to buy such accessory. 

       

    • Avatar

      5592

      In reply to kenhes:

      Well, the contrast between the Windows 10 Creator Edition/Surface Studio announcement and Apple's "Let's remove all the features actual working creative professionals use from the MacBook Pro" announcement the next day certainly put it into very sharp focus.

      Or, as Brian Hall put it in his blog post "... the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface ..."

  2. Avatar

    5592

    First, that's Brian Hall, not Bill Hall. (I'm guessing you merged Brian with the late Bill Hill)

    As for Mac users switching, look at any professional photography blog. Microsoft produced great products for "creators" in the whole Surface line and third party vendors have done that as well. What Apple did was screw up so badly that their loyalists finally looked around for other options and realized there were really good choices out there.

    • Avatar

      9133

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Yes, I'm one of those Mac users, testing the Surface waters with a Surface Pro 4. Had screen freezing issues with it until recently, but fortunately now solved. would have been a deal breaker if my main computer. But, a big factor in favor of the Surface is the display quality as far as color is concerned. Most Windows PCs, including those at the top of the range, don't provide great color accuracy (even if calibrated). I returned a couple of laptops for this reason. Surface Pro 4 has a solid color gamut and is factory calibrated - its a big deal for some. Also, 16:9 laptop displays with massive lower bezels are all too common - trim the lower bezel or even better put a 16:10 display in there like a Mac. 

  3. Avatar

    5094

    I think you are correct Paul RE holiday sales. I speak from experience - I'm typing from a week old SP4 bought through a Black Friday discount (through online UK MS Store). I wouldn't have bought one without the discount.

  4. Avatar

    4925

    I suspect you are right; including the keyboard probably helps too.  I do know at least two mac users switching to Surface mostly because of the new Macbooks they also happened to have the same generation of macbooks.  Of course that is anecdotal evidence but still.  Nice to see the Surface continues to do well.

  5. Avatar

    5767

    I predict the Macbook Pro w/TouchBar will be record sales for Apple. They know how to make computers that make you drool.

  6. Avatar

    1792

    A Surface laptop would be quite nice. However I agree it's a bit too pricey right now. 

  7. Avatar

    5394

    MacBooks don't seem so bad. They just traditional laptops. The year old Intel chips might sting, but Apple is playing it safe. I suppose its more about price versus performance. I still don't see the value proposition of Surface. They are expensive and mostly serve the Enterprise market. They are well designed, but not best designed.

  8. Avatar

    3884

    I'm sure Microsoft could price the Surface line cheaper overall, but feel they're probably artificially keeping them in the "aspirational" price range so they don't annoy their partners and OEMs like they did with the original Surface launch.

    It's a shame, but better to keep the OEMs happy and help them build cool devices that are similar (or sometimes direct clones) but are cheaper and democratise the device types more.

    Bring on the Surface Studio clones that are half the price of the original please! ;)

  9. Avatar

    5553

    New Macbook is the HRC of laptops LOSER !??

  10. Avatar

    5553

    Microsoft: Surface just enjoyed its most successful month ever, thanks to the new Apple MacBook Pro

     

  11. Avatar

    217

    My only issue with the Surface tablets is lack of "lapability" (quote from MJ Foley) so I wouldn't buy one, and the Surface Book is way too expensive for the hardware you get, so I wound up building my own rig. If I had to get a second device I might pick up the Xiaomi Mi Air 13".

    I think the folks that are quickly leaving the Apple camp are folks who weren't too heavily invested in Apple to begin with. I was apple-exclusive from 2007-2015, then left for Windows (was Linux prior). I don't think Windows 10 is the perfect OS, but it's by far way easier to deal with than Linux (have that running in a VM) and my $1500 custom rig blows the doors off anything Apple or MSFT offers at even $2500. So I'm happy running this beast but I don't think either the Surface or the Macbook Pro are quite attractive at their price ranges

  12. Avatar

    412

    My only complaint on my Surface Book Core i7, 512GB is the sleeping problems. I just doesn't seem to one to sleep, no matter what updates Microsoft puts out. It is hit and miss. And I also try to see if it may be the resident Chrome service or f-lux causing it. Nothing seems to point to the problem as it is hit and miss. 

  13. Avatar

    809

    I own 80% Apple 20% MS stuff. The new MBP is a big disappointment. I wont be switching to Surface but I will be hanging on to my 2013 MBP for now.

  14. Avatar

    7099

    Hmmm, but Apple have said this new Macbook Pro is the fastest selling Mac ever at launch, and then you have other articles like this http://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2016/11/09/apple-macbook-pro-sales-figures/#58807a726bf0 .

     

  15. Avatar

    9127

    Sale prices, more power and/or better initial value for dollar has always been in favor of the Surface (Windows) line.  Long term value and/or user experience perception was always Apple's play.  There are maybe 2-3 popular reviews on Youtube defending the new MBP, but there are a litany of reviews of people outright switching or if not, seriously upset with the new MBP direction and in every time, it's the cost that is the tipping point.  Nobody thinks the MBP is worth it, even when they go ahead and buy it.  I made that same decision when I bought the Xbox One with kinect.  I did it to be in the ecosystem when it technically wasn't the best product on the market at the time.

  16. Avatar

    5486

    Sounds like too much PR overload in a couple of paragraphs. MS going into overdrive, and sounding ridiculous because of it. Surface's are *still* too expensive, even at 'sale' prices, and have some real shoddy QA problems that linger on.

    We actually bought a Surface Pro 4 (entry i3 device) for a single user on our network, who pulled the 'I have a bad back' card, and needed something light and portable. I can only say, it's horrible. We've had no end of problems with it freezing and not doing what we want. It shipped with Win10 Pro, and we needed Enterprise, which caused more issues. Screen is too small, font's are tiny, it judders and stalls during use and a few other things besides. Waste of money, but at least I won't have to use it.

  17. Avatar

    442

    Microsoft seems to be firing all guns in the right direction these days.  Wonder if it's time for them to try the phone thing again... ;)

  18. Avatar

    5510

    LOL...to be honest, this is very hard to believe since Brian Hall offers NO NUMBERS or STATS to backup his claim. Believe me, I am no Apple fan, but I am going to go so far to say that Brian Hall is LYING or OVER-EXXAGERATING.

    Without hard numbers, this should be considered as FAKE NEWS.

    Also, from all the information that is online, the new Macbook Pro is doing fine. Let's not forget that in the past, Creatives were always ok with doing their work on PowerPCs rather than Intel/AMD/Cyrix, etc... It's hard to imagine these people truly swtiching even if the insides of the Surface is better than a Macbook.

    Also, when it comes to "pen" functionality, Apple offers that too with the 12 inch iPad Pro, which is really good. I cannot, for the life me, see Macbook users switching to a Surface computer to use Adobe when the UI is extremely very small.

    Lastly, Creatives who use Apple products are married by their heavy investment in their photo and video software like Final Cut and such. It's hard to imagine them abandoning their professional platforms for something new to learn and spend on.

    Again,...without hard numbers, I think this is FAKE NEWS.

    How about being a professional Paul and verify for us that all of this is true?

    • Avatar

      8121

      In reply to Bats:

      I think you are confused on which forum you're on. This isn't a political forum. To say a principle in a publicly traded company would lie and risk being sued by shareholders is patently childish.

    • Avatar

      5592

      In reply to Bats:

      And here's a blog post from an actual Apple Professional website cataloging the Apple fans' take on the MacBook Pro. With over two dozen daily updates to keep up with how that disgust with Apple is progressing:

      http://mjtsai.com/blog/2016/10/27/new-macbook-pros-and-the-state-of-the-mac/

  19. Avatar

    4288

    Every surface sold is $1,000 not earned by OEM partners. Some of them need the money whereas MS just needs Surface to break even/pay back the R&D effort.

    Would we get great machines like the HP Spectres if the Surface machines were more normally priced (i.e. $200 - $300 cheaper)? I'm not sure HP would bother with the investment if they couldn't get decent share of the market.

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