Analyst firm Forrester Research has warned that two versions of Microsoft's newly unveiled Surface tablet computer could end up confusing customers.
Microsoft launched its two Surface devices on Monday 18 June. One runs on the upcoming Windows 8 Pro operating system, and the other is based on Windows RT, a version of Windows designed to run on ARM processors that are common in the tablet market.
"Selling x86-based tablets in the same retail channels as Windows RT tablets will confuse consumers and sow discontent if consumers buy x86 and think they're getting something like the iPad," said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
She added that Microsoft and its partners need to articulate a compelling strategy for how they will manage consumer expectations in the channel.
"Consumers aren't used to thinking about chipsets. Choice is a key tenet of Windows, but too much choice is overwhelming for consumers. Apple gets this, and limits iPad options to connectivity, storage, and black...or white," said Epps.
There were no exact prices or launch dates for the tablets but Microsoft said the RT version would be priced comparable with competing ARM-based tablets and be available around the time of the launch of Windows 8. The Windows 8 Pro will follow about three months later and cost around the same as ultrabooks.
Meanwhile, the Windows RT version is likely to be perceived as more enterprise friendly, as it offers admins to manage the devices with activities such as updates, deployment, and patching with Windows Intune or System Center Configuration Manager, pointed out Forrester analyst David Johnson.
"Think of point of sale systems that employees can take to the customer, while IT keeps the auditors happy with demonstrated PCI compliance," said Johnson.
But it is early days yet for the Surface devices. "Of course until the apps appear, it's anyone's guess just how appealing RT will be," added Johnson.
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