At an event planned for May 20, 2014, Microsoft is expected to announce one or more new additions to the Surface device family. Whatever the exact offering may be, the company’s goal is to help improve the Surface line’s long-term prospects following a disappointing Q1 2014. Usage share metrics underscore Microsoft’s existing issues in North America, as the share of Web traffic from the company’s two tablet models, the Surface and Surface 2, has slightly declined since February 2014. As Apple iPad users generate more than 75% of all North American tablet usage, for additional clarity, Chitika Insights focused on non-iPad tablet traffic for the purposes of this analysis.
To quantify the usage share of Microsoft Surface tablets, Chitika Insights sampled tens of millions of U.S. and Canadian non-iPad tablet online ad impressions running through the Chitika Ad Network. The data used within the most recent analysis were drawn from impressions catalogued between February 1 and May 14, 2014. Data points are plotted on the basis of a monthly average.
Surface tablet users generated a marginally decreasing share of U.S. and Canadian non-iPad tablet Web traffic as we moved through late Q1 and early Q2. This trend follows substantial usage share growth for the device family during the latter half of 2013, when Surface’s non-iPad usage share went from 3.3% in June, to 5.7% in September, to nearly 8% leading into last holiday season. In each of those cases, price cuts on the Surface corresponded to an uptick in usage share. While some of those price cuts are still in effect, the more recent usage share decline may be due to several factors.
For one, users who bought or received the device in late 2013 may be browsing with their Surface less frequently as compared to when the device was new to them. In the past we have observed that around the holidays usage share figures dramatically change, but then subsequently moderate as users return to more typical work weeks and usage patterns. Additionally, as Microsoft Office comes included with the purchase of a Surface or Surface 2, it is possible that Surface users as a whole are utilizing their tablet for more offline work while more regularly browsing the Web on a separate device.
In any case, in the context of these usage figures along with analyst estimates, it’s clear that Microsoft has its work cut out for it in terms of improving adoption of Surface tablets along with keeping users engaged with the device over the long term. The upcoming slate of one or more devices, and any corresponding changes Microsoft implements, should shed some light as to where the company is looking to take the Surface as we move through 2014.