Microsoft Surface vs. Tablet Restaurant Menus

Posted by on Apr 21, 2011 in DOOH

When Microsoft Surface first come out, I recall one of the main selling points was that it would eventually replace the standard restaurant dining table surface as a means of being able to view what you could potentially order as well as give you the ability to charge a credit card by simply placing it on the table.Or, if you were lucky, NFC chips would be more mainstream and you could simply use your iPhone or Google Android. However, the cost has been pretty prohibitive ever since the things came out. And, the size and bulkiness has certainly added to the hindrance of widespread acceptance. Enter the tablet PC. Thanks to Apple’s iPad release an entire market of new devices and applications which were initially used in the consumer space. However, the tablet computer (not that the tablet was anything new) is now being more widely used commercially by businesses and other professionals. My question is does an iPad menu–or any other tablet used in any commercial setting–eliminate the need for Microsoft Surface? Are the two even in competition with one another in the first place?

My first inclination is to say that they are in a field of their own. But when you think about it, they truly are competing with each other. Much like BestBuy is competing with Sportsman’s Warehouse: they compete for one another’s time. And when a restaurant owner or commercial business manager is looking for a way to augment his/her internal marketing and pizzaz, doing so with none other than a tablet PC probably gives the best bang for the buck experience. Think for a moment of the cost differences. The last time I checked the “Surface” was somewhere between $10,000 and $13,000, depending on what website you go to. Even the nicest tablet with the digital menu software included on the device, is only going to run you between $500 and $700. That’s if you want the top of the line. You can still get a pretty decent version for say $200 ish. And that price is only going to go down. Probably no luck in getting the Surface to go down in price anytime soon.

Also, the potential features for a tablet market in the business and hospitality environment far outnumber those in the Microsoft Surface environment. People can simply download applications for free that have been created by open development around the world. How is that going to compete with the Surface.

In reality, tablets (iPads and Androids) are in totally different leagues and don’t even compete with each other. In fact, that is what Steve Jobs told his employees when he came back to Apple, “we’re not in competition with Microsoft.” And they ignored the competition and went after markets heretofore untapped. They went after the “blue oceans.” Of course the Surface has some features that the tablets don’t have–at least for now. But the potential of handheld devices is so much bigger. Personal computing, not group computing was the wave Bill Gates originally saw coming. The difference was that he was prepared when the tsunami hit and was able to make a splash big time (pun intended).

The next time you visit a restaurant that uses an iPad as a digital menu, remember that that could have been a Microsoft Surface, but instead, Apple changed the game again.

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