Microsoft Surface: Analysts weigh in

June 19, 2012: 4:36 PM ET

Will Microsoft's new tablet be a success or a flop? Here's what analysts think.

By Lisa Mogilanski, reporter

FORTUNE -- Much has been written about Surface, the new tablet device unveiled by Microsoft on Monday. What exactly makes it different? What will it be like to use? Is it little more than a Xerox of the world's dominant tablet? Definitive answers aren't likely to be had until well after the device launches. But, analysts have already weighed in with their initial impressions. Here's what they've had to say:

Peter Misek, Jason North, and Billy Kim of Jefferies & Company, Inc

We do not view these devices as competitive or as a threat to the iPad. Though pricing details are unclear, we believe Microsoft will need to significantly undercut the iPad to be competitive...We believe the most important factor in the success of a tablet is its ecosystem. Based on our discussions with developers, we find the lack of enthusiasm concerning and believe Windows 8 tablets will struggle to compete with the iPad, and to a lesser extent Android tablets such as the Galaxy Tab/Note.

John W. Pitzer, Patrick Walsh, Kyle Chen, and Ryan Carver of Credit Suisse

While announcing both an ARM (Tegra) and an x86 tablet (Ivy Bridge) is a modest positive for INTC, as pre- event speculation centered on ARM only, we doubt MSFT tablets will move the dial in the near term and would remind investors that Win RT availability will occur approximately 90 days ahead of Win Pro. While many will try and compare and contrast the two tablets, we continue to believe its performance "apples" against power "oranges". More importantly, we expect the introduction of Haswell in 2013 to level the power playing field while increasing the performance gap in INTC's favor.

Matthew Hoffman and Bryan Prohm of Cowen and Company

Our annual surveys of iPad end- users have consistently shown iPad is used primarily for web browsing, gaming and media consumption. The Surface provides little new competition in any of those consumer use categories. Moreover, because iPad has proven to be popular with end- users despite lacking Office support, we believe RT-based tablets are most likely to cannibalize enterprise PC sales (not iPad sales). We expect the Surface will expand the tablet market more than Android tablets have to date.

Heather Bellini, Perry Huang, Brian Baytosh, and Tariq Chaudhri of Goldman Sachs

While pricing was not announced, numerous press reports have suggested that Windows 8 tablets coming from other OEMs would likely price higher than iPad given the OS license fee. If this is the case for Surface, adoption could be muted, in our view. Additionally, as with Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility, OEM alienation due to the perception of increased complication will be a concern. We note in Google's case Android was a well established, open platform long before the Motorola purchase, whereas Microsoft is entering the tablet market at the same time as making its tablet OS available to other OEMs. Our price target remains unchanged.

Adam Holt, Jennifer Swanson Lowe, and Melissa Gorham of Morgan Stanley

While the production of hardware has not always been positive for MSFT (homeruns like Kinect offset by misses like Zune) and raises questions about gross margins, the Surface looks promising at first blush and should help MSFT gain share in the tablet and hybrid market—which is all largely incremental to the numbers, and possibly the multiple. While we need more details on apps, content and some areas of performance like battery life, Surface's innovative Touch Cover keyboard, compatibility with Office, integrated USB ports and features optimized for Skype should help MSFT differentiate. Further, the availability of both RT and x86 Win 8 choices this Fall may increase the chance of Win 8 success, and pricing for Surface will provide reasonable price points for consumers.

Kash Rangan, Jaimin Soni, and Kenny Jiang of BofA Merrill Lynch

By owning the hardware for tablets, MSFT can potentially have better control over the specs and costs involved and will be able to tightly integrate the device with its Windows platform, in our opinion. While some tablet OEMs may view this as a risk, we expect MSFT to continue working with them to maximize the reach of Win 8 and offer more hardware choices to customers.

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