When Microsoft finally takes Australia seriously

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Yesterday, Microsoft announced that the Surface would finally make its third-party retail availability in two countries. The first and most obviously is the United States, no explanation required. The second however was not typical of Microsoft, Australia. As a continent country which has consistently missed out on Microsoft products and services, this is a sign.

I have heard many stories of just what the internationalization (or there lack-of) strategy used to be at Microsoft from several ex-employees. As interesting and horrifying as those are, it’s water under the bridge compared to the current reality – Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface have done exceptionally well in Australia.

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The first piece of the puzzle – advertising, has been incredibly strong. I’ve seen Windows 8 and Windows 8 PC ads on digital billboards, posters, every electronic retailer’s brochures. I’ve seen Windows Phone 8 advertising on full-page newspapers prints, on TV and featured front-and-centre for many carriers.

Last but not least, I’ve seen Surface ads all over Melbourne. It was on a bus I took yesterday, at two train stations which I ride past every morning, at several busy road intersections and airports. In fact I haven’t even seen nearly as many iPad or iPhone ads.

Of course I’m not the only one to see these ads. I’m consistently surprised by how many of my friends who previously and otherwise would never bring up Microsoft products have bought Windows Phone 8 phones and Surfaces. I’m no longer the only one with Microsoft devices in these social circles.

Beginning Friday, two of Australia’s biggest electronics retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi Fi will begin displaying and selling the Surface RT in stores.

I’ve been trying to confirm whether these will be the fancy iPad-esque displays with its own stand to separate it from the other PCs en masse, but I haven’t heard back yet. However I have been able to confirm retailers will be stocking the full set of accessories in their stores too.

Currently both retailers are selling Surface RTs at recommended retail price (RRP) – the same as Microsoft, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do discounts closer to or after the Christmas rush.

Even though there are still areas where Australian suport is lacking, notably region-locked features in Windows Phone 8 including no full-resolution photo backups to SkyDrive (WTF this one) and content on Xbox, but having a product in people’s hands is better than nothing at all.

9 insightful thoughts

  1. It continues to amaze me that a lot of friends not into tech (the ones that ask me what laptop they should buy) have seen my Surface or heard me say I have one and ask “Oh, the Click In thing” and want to play with the Surface and even comment that they would like one.

  2. NZ is in the same boat regarding WP8, lots of Windows 8 advertising around though, and we don’t have the Surface in stores (baring some parallel imported stock).

    The lack of podcasts on WP8 is incredibly frustrating.

  3. Let’s face it with less people in the entire country than you find in the greater Manhattan area you can understand why they would see this as a second rate market.

    They certainly will have an uphill battle when it comes to selling them in stores. I am blown away every time I walk past an Apple store. It seems there are always people standing around with a boxed iPad in hand waiting to pay. When you have a look at the PC / tablet area in a JB Hifi you rarely see a customer let alone someone interacting with the devices on display.

    From what I get asked it seems a lot of people that don’t care much about what apps are available (the big draw card for those buying iPads) also want cheap. Naturally that means they will buy on of those underpowered $99 Android tablets.

    It will be interesting so see if their strategy will pay off or if the only way they can really make a dent is buying setting up their own shops down here.

  4. Steve, that’s a pretty provincial-minded thing to say. Australia is an extremely wealthy economy (we haven’t been in recession for more than 20 years and our economic growth is 3.1%) and we have a population that spends big on technology with high per-capita income. Apple makes $5 billion a year from our market, so the potential revenue is not insignificant.

    As always, Apple noticed these facts much earlier than Microsoft and has been taking our market much more seriously for the past three to four years – we are now pretty much always among the first release countries for most products. But I’m glad Microsoft is finally at the table ready to do business down under. Microsoft’s absurdly limited focus on the US has done it a lot of damage in the past. Ceding the field to competitors makes no sense at all.

  5. Great news! However, I wouldn’t expect a price drop. Microsoft needs to sell the idea that the Surface is just as good as the iPad at full price. The second a retailer offers a discount the media will be all over it and say “the Surface hasn’t sold enough units to make it a contender for the #1 tablet spot so Microsoft is giving up”

  6. The Surface is featured alongside other Windows tablets in the in-store displays at both Harvey Norman and JB. It’s not treated as a stand-out device like the iPad. In fact if you weren’t paying close enough attention, you’d probably miss it as you walked past.

  7. No podcasts on WP8? Seriously? They are out of their minds. Glad I found out, no way am I buying one now.

    Aside from making calls and checking my email, podcasts are the main thing I do on my phone.

    I have a WP7, and I like it, but my contract is due to expire this month and it is time for a new handset. Looks like I will be getting an s3

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