This will not come as a big surprise to many, but I think maybe my reason why is a little different than most. Microsoft is missing that gateway device for kids that are too young to get a PC or a Windows Phone. Something like the iPod, iPad or Google Android tablet device.
Kids get these non cell devices first
This is usually a birthday or Christmas present, and they almost immediately switch all present requests to gift cards for their new ecosystem. Of course kids don’t call it that, they don’t know they have just made a major decision point in tech for their future. They just thought it was cool they had the same device as their friends.
Most of these devices are bought (rather then rented per the current US cell phone market model), so that makes them unique. Many parents are price sensitive to giving an 8 year old a piece of technology.
In my kids own classes during middle school the device of choice was the iPod. These kids would literally spend $100’s in gift cards on music, movies, TV and apps. Now normally you would think that is just what kids do, they spend money on short term thing like that. But now the bigger decision comes when they hit about 13 and go to get their first cell phone.
But I already have all my apps and music!
Talk to any of these kids about what type of phone they want and they will immediately gravitate to the one where they have their apps, movies, etc. One of my daughters friends said she has over $1000 “invested” in her iPod, so of course she wants the iPhone (duh for me even asking!).
These kids don’t care about tech, they care about what they already know and have apps that they don’t want to lose. Suggest to one of these kids that they get a Microsoft Surface and they will freak out on you in a hurry.
Look forward a few more years, and it gets worse
Now my eldest daughter is an upper classman in High School and is thinking about college. Even though she uses a Laptop PC for school today (supplied by the school) she wants to get a Macbook when she goes to college. I asked her why and she said that all her music, movies, TV will just work with it. No hassle in figuring out how to get it to Windows. She could care less about Word, Excel, etc. She wants what will work with her existing stuff.
Microsoft Zune – oh how I miss you
This leads me back all the way to Microsoft Zune. I seriously think Microsoft killed it about three years too soon. At this point in the product cycle Microsoft has NO device for these early kids.
Zune was that device, it even had a great ecosystem around desktop stands and ways to get music into the home through docks, etc. None of the current Windows Phone devices have broken that barrier yet. There is no standard connector for all the phones for any manufacturer to even make a dock for Windows Phone. The market has gone more Bluetooth powered in the past few years, but having a dock is what made all those hotels buy alarm clocks that you can plug an iPod / iPhone / iPad into.
Microsoft Surface is not that first device
The Microsoft Surface is too expensive for most parents to buy for their kids (when they can get a Nexus 7 for $199, or an iPad Mini for $329). I do think we will see more of the first devices for kids be tablets rather than iPods, but Microsoft is still pricing themselves out of that market.
Go to Universities today and look
I teach at schools around the world periodically as a part of my job. I am always confronted with 90%+ Mac laptops in the classrooms. Many of them are running Windows in a VM for “antiquated classes that don’t have Mac software”.
This looks bad for PCs, and Microsoft in particular, in the years to come. As those kids get to jobs and start the BYOD revolution they will not want a PC or Windows.
The only way I see this changing is if Microsoft can break that cycle with the younger generation and make owning a Windows tablet cool. That is going to be a hard thing to do with the current generation of hardware and the prices that we are seeing today.