OPINION: This week Microsoft released a swath of new devices including the Surface Pro 8, Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Duo.
But for me, in this sea of launches it was the more affordable Surface Go 3 that stood out, and this isn’t because it’s the most interesting new Surface in the pack. The Duo 2 is an awesome looking dual screen phone, and the Laptop Studio is the first Microsoft device I’ve seen in quite some time with the technical specs to go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro (2021) in the creative market.
Instead, it’s because of the Go 3’s overt focus on being a kids tablet that has my attention. This was evident the moment the company revealed the device, with every image showing a smiling kid doing their homework (clear propaganda), watching cartoons and even playing games on Microsoft’s Game Pass cloud streaming service.
The move also makes complete sense. For the last few years the tablet market has been in a pretty sorry state, with Apple securing a majority with pretty much every demographic, including kids, with its iPads. The only minor challenger for younger audiences comes from Amazon with its Fire line, but with these being little more than gateways to Amazon’s ecommerce platforms and streaming services – calling them an iPad rival is a little kind. The only real incentive to buy a Fire tablet is their low cost. Offering a genuine iPad alternative to kids could be a huge win for the Surface Go 3.
And being clear, I think the Surface Go 3 could in many ways be a better option for kids aged 7-plus than an iPad. Windows 11’s touch interface looks great and Microsoft’s OS has a more open app offering, granting access to great freeware like Krita and Blender for budding creatives. Most schools, outside of swanky private ones, are also still using Windows which adds an air of practicality to the mix.
Based on my experience, Game Pass is also a great service for parents looking to control their kids’ gaming habits. To catch you up, Game Pass is a subscription service that lets you stream games over the cloud on devices other than your home console. Like Netflix it grants access to a library of titles, including every Microsoft exclusive. The benefit is obvious, as if you want to stop a kid from gaming, you simply stop paying for or pause the subscription.
Despite the benefits however, parents and Microsoft alike are going to struggle persuading kids to add a Surface Go 3 to their Christmas list for one simple reason: Microsoft’s got its marketing wrong.
Microsoft has always portrayed itself as a safe, reliable company, with its marketing generally focussing on making rational arguments to show why its products are great for things like productivity and practicality. That’s great if you’re a business, but not that enticing for youngsters. I mean seriously, showing a kid how great Office 365 is for doing homework isn’t going to make them want a Surface Go 3.
Kids aren’t swayed by a well structured rational series of points or technical information. Much like the atmosphere Apple has cultivated around its smartphones, having an iPad is a status symbol, falling into that loop of being a cool product that kids want because it’s cool and it’s what all their friends have.
That’s why the Apple iPad 9 is likely going to be a bigger hit with Kids this year, despite Apple not pushing much in the way of marketing directly to them. Talking to my niece and goddaughter, this became woefully clear. When I asked if they liked and would potentially want a new Surface Go both gave a distinct “meh” before getting back to watching SpongeBob and Paw Patrol on their aging iPad Mini 3s.
For reference, the iPad Mini 3 is potentially the worst iPad Apple’s ever released. The fact that it still has more street cred on any school playground speaks volumes about how well Apple’s positioned itself as the “cool” company for kids and is clear proof that the Go 3 is going to struggle getting kids to switch sides, despite having so much more on offer.
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