Microsoft’s Surface And The Fine Line Between Investment And Loss


There’s been quite a bit of interesting financial commentary on Microsoft’s Surface line of tablet-hybrids published recently. The Surface project loses money. Understanding the magnitude of those deficits is important.

The analysis led to the Verge’s Tom Warren asking the somewhat provocative question of whether Surface is the new Zune, a product line that improved throughout its life, but never achieved escape velocity.

Let’s take a look at the history of Surface, Microsoft’s comments on its vision for the product line, stack those next to its current losses, and then compare the product line to another Microsoft hardware project and see where we end up.

A Real Business

When I first encountered Surface in Redmond back in 2012, I was told along with the rest of the assembled press that the hardware line was ‘a real business.’ That’s to say that it wasn’t a hobby, and that Microsoft expected it to perform…

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