Surface Go 'cool factor' will be crucial to its success

Cuphead (Image credit: Windows Central)

"Cool" isn't a term frequently applied to Microsoft or its products. In fact, its enterprise-focused efforts have some claiming Microsoft is becoming the next "IBM," or a background provider of cloud, development and software platforms with little consumer appeal.

Consequently, Microsoft is a well known but not necessarily "cool" brand. Smartphones, Apple's iPads, and some Android tablets are the cool products that have excited users for years. Microsoft's defunct phone platform and expensive productivity-focused Surface Pros haven't done the same for the masses.

Surface Pro is excellent for leisure and productivity, but its high price makes it inaccessible for most. Furthermore, its positioning as Microsoft's "most versatile laptop," places it more inline with Ultrabooks than portable and cool iPads. Combined with its "Pro" title, Microsoft pushes Surface Pro as productively efficient, powerful and versatile but not fun nor cool.

Surface Go, which is essentially a mini Surface Pro with a cooler name, lower price and consumer-focused marketing, changes that.

See Surface Go at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Surface Go: What's in a name?

A products name is important to its success. If it doesn't communicate what the product is, isn't easy to say or remember, and isn't "catchy", even a great product can fail to capture consumers' attention. The name must also work seamlessly with the broader marketing message.

Microsoft says Surface Go is for everyone. That encompasses millions of consumers who love their iPads, iPhones, Android phones, and tablets. Thus, Surface Go must win hearts and minds that have been shaped by aggressive marketing and "trained" to eagerly anticipate yearly upgrades to the iOS and Android devices they've committed to.

'Surface Go' has a fun ring to it.

That "shared" upgrade experience and the sense of belonging to groups that use particular devices cements the "coolness" of Apple's and Android OEM's devices in the culture. This intangible emotional tie is an asset that is hard to combat. It is within this context Microsoft is positioning Surface Go as a cool consumer-focused alternative.

"Go," is a term that communicates a fun, not-all-business device. "Surface" conveys the familiar quality PC category capable of getting down to business when needed. "Surface Go" communicates a powerful ultra-portable device that goes everywhere with a user for everything he does. The name is also catchy and easy to say and remember. Combined with Microsoft's marketing for leisure activities, like watching movies, listening to music, taking pictures and web-surfing, it potentially has the feel-good and productivity ingredients to generate the mass consumer appeal that makes products cool.

Surface expectations and quality matter

Effective marketing can backfire if a product doesn't meet expectations. Fortunately, Surface Go has the context of Microsoft's standard-setting Surface brand backing it. Microsoft's Chief Product Officer Panos Panay is known for painstaking attention to detail and perseverance toward getting a product right. For example, he made Surface the successful family of devices that it is today after two failed iterations and a billion-dollar loss.

Our Executive Editor Daniel Rubino's Surface Go review confirms Microsoft brought the same quality standards Surface is known for to Surface Go. In fact, Surface Go exceeded Daniel's expectations.

Microsoft's marketing of Surface Go as a device with tablet mobility and laptop productivity, without locking it into either category, flexibly positions it so consumer expectations are not too rigid. The Type Cover-less $399 base model serves the common tablet expectations of web-surfing, listening to music, watching videos and extreme portability at a price consistent with Microsoft's "Surface Go is for everyone" message. Adding a $100 Type Cover (opens in new tab) gives users an ultra-portable and affordable high-quality $500 laptop that's still consistent with Microsoft's messaging. For an additional $100 the Surface Pen (opens in new tab) makes this tablet-laptop an optimally-sized digital notepad.

Is Surface Go cool enough?

Surface Go has its shortcomings, namely a less than optimal Tablet Mode and a deficit of mobile apps when compared to iOS and Android. But its ultraportability, laptop mode and capacity as a digital notepad are standout features.

Microsoft's consumer-focused marketing, accessible pricing, and high-quality Surface design may be enough to appeal to the masses. If so, Surface Go's cool factor will be its key to success.

See Surface Go at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

  • And what would be the cool factor for Surface Andy?
  • I hope that's not the name for it.
  • I've yet to see a commercial about it. So I guess "cool" is out the door.
  • Yes, I too was looking for a Go commercial during the last Sunday golf and NFL preseason games, but to my surprise nothing! Is this also going to happen to upcoming Surface Andy? If yes, then MS would be in trouble!
  • Here's a Surface Go commercial I saw on television recently. 😉
  • I have seen three go commercials since it’s release. Not bad imo.
  • The issue is exposure to large audiences. Having sporadic commercials here and there on a limited time slots would not help...
  • These were in prime time slots. One was while America’s got talent was on. The most watched tv show during the summer. I am not sure if we, in Canada get the commercial feeds from the us too, but they showed the go then. That’s pretty well the Super Bowl of summer tv.
  • Tuned into AGT again last night for a few minutes, saw 3 surface go commercials. In a span of 20 - 30 mins.
  • I have seen a couple of different ones, the salmon twins and one other.
  • "What's in a name?" A lot! With billions invested in the Andromeda device, Microsoft can't afford to blow this.
  • Is hardware what is keeping Windows from being cool? I doubt it. Anyone who uses it will quickly see it is just another classic Windows PC. To have any cool factor, it will need new software. I do not think it is possible to make classic Windows cool, especially with nothing but hardware updates. If they wanted this thing to be cool, they need a revolutionary CShell tablet interface at launch.
  • Thumbs up for a reasonable comment, Bleached. If they can get the gesture based UX in W8 back for tablet mode that would be good start.
  • He/she is evolving ;)
  • This is the exact same thing I have been saying for years. Microsoft needs a new platform for the future. They need a full touch UI when the keyboard isn't attached. You should only need to attach the keyboard for very heavy typing. The hardware is great though and the price is decent. I think the Surface Go will do fine, it just won't drive Microsoft into the future without new and drastically improved software experiences.
  • In my humble opinion the Surface Go is totally cool as an optimal fusion of tablet and laptop that is unique in the market place, and with hardware features that nobody else can offer (alcantara keyboard in fancy colours, matching pen and mouse, super build quality of the device itself etc.). When I read the mostly positive reviews I sense the same suprise: Microsoft actually succeeded in building a cool device with mass appeal. However, at least in my country the media has decided seemingly once and for all that only Apple is allowed to be given the cool status. Everything Apple is doing is extensively and positively covered in the media, whereas only specialised tech media will ever mention -and then only briefly - new Microsoft products, often highlighting possible shortcommings. As an example: the new Macbooks were big news in all major media, whereas I have not seen any major media telling about the Surface Go. have a suspicion that all journalists in my country have only ever used Ipads or Macbooks or Iphones. Add to that a general feeling that Apple is a "good" company protecting privacy and the consumers. And of course it's always never mentioned that Apple is generating billions of profit in my country but not paying anything in taxes, which they prefer to pay only in lowtax countries. Sorry for the rant, but I really believe Microsoft deserves more praise for things like the Surface line of products, which in many respects are light-years ahead of their competitors with regard to innovation and coolness. Still, I hope with all my heart that the Surface Go will gain the attention it deserves. I have noticed that Microsoft at least in my country is much more present and active in adds and other marketing. And as far as I can judge the adds etc. do stress the cool factor of the Surface Go quite efficiently.
  • I agree "Go" does have a ring of cheap fun. Its interesting that this surface device puts the discussion back if the surface device form factor is tablet ir a laprop. Am happy thatbfinall stories on surface devices are more serious about the state of tablet experiences on the surface, surface pro, "Go", and hopefully other tablet devices. It has nothing to do with cool but it a serious user interface issue that was clear since windows 10 was released from the start.
  • The Surface Go pretty much ticks almost all the boxes for me. I waiting on the LTE version and proper tablet UX. I much prefer the gesture based UX of W8 for tablets. For desktop PCs and Laptops it was diabolical. Now we have the opposite problem, W10 is awesome for PCs and Laptops but diabolical for tablets. Granted it's a better tablet experience than XP, Vista and Windows 7. I am hoping the vp of growth and ecosystems at Microsoft, Charlotte Yarkoni (she's been at that role for just over a year) gets alot more resources to throw at UWP development. As UWP still remains the key to Microsoft's mobile success not PWA, not ios or android where they have little to no control.
  • If it is not possible to develop the windows 10 tablet mode proper anytime soon. They should at least give user the option to toggle between windows 8 metro UI or windows 10 tablet UI. They just have to install full windows 8 metro UI gestures as whole module without changing. It is also not easy task but as far as I think it is still easier as compared to developing full UI. And they should at least give this option of toggling in the surface line up. It would be very useful. Surface users will thank them for it.
  • I just ordered one of these for my wife. She uses office for our daughters school as she assists with functions and other things since its half home school, half attending. This is perfect for her needs as it will be mostly communicating, not a taking, presenting power points, and surfing web browser stuff like sign up and class dojo. It will fit in her purse and give her according to tests around 6.5-9 hours of battery. I looked into ARM devices too but wanted to wait for the more powerful processors before going down that road, though reviews have been positive on the Envy X2. What I noticed on the reviews though is that they all say this does everything well and works great. Then they get into how much crap they can run and open until it slows down a little bit. So they open about 40 browser tabs, some photo shop, some HD video, then about 1,000 grids worth of excel and graphs lol. I have been working with computers and programs since I was around 10 years old. My first graphics build had the voodoo cards lol. Counter strike and motorcross madness lololol. Point is that 99% of people don't work that way. I hardly ever have more then 10 tabs open, and never play an HD movie in the background because I'm obviously not watching it at that point. If I'm working on excel then I have that open with emails maybe some music in the background. Real world use will be this devices buyer. If your a user who programs, edits video often, games on graphics intensive titles then you know what kinds of hardware you need. So these reviews where they do this kinds of stuff seems tell you it shows its low power processor is irrelevant to the regular buyer. Just my rant after some of these reviews.
  • It's from Microsoft and it's running Windows. In a world of iPads, that makes this about as cool as a Dodge sitting next to a Lamborghini. Microsoft gave up any hope of ever being "cool" when they gave up on phones. Windows laptops are about as cool as microwave ovens. Functional but boring commodity items.
  • A Dodge Viper is a pretty damn cool car and looks right at home next to a Lamborghini Huracan
  • LOL, right. Dream on.
  • Not in a million years...!
  • The ecosystem and developers actually gave up on phones much like they are not embracing UWP. With devices, especially new ones if development for its sustainable ecosystem doesn't start fast... It ultimately kills the device. A windows phone can only return after UWP turns 180 degrees!
  • UWP is dead. No developers care about Windows these days. The only development going on is maintenance for legacy Win32 stuff. Without phones/mobile devices, there is no point to UWP. Win32 IS the "universal windows platform", as it runs on all existing Windows PCs. UWP is a solution looking for a problem. Everyone here demanding "full Windows 10" on every Microsoft device is helping to kill UWP. Not that it needs the help. Other than games, the vast majority of new development is happening on Android and iOS. There were 1.5 billion phones/tablets sold last year, and 240 million Windows desktop/laptop/"tablet" PCs. That tells you all you need to know about where developers are concentrating their efforts now.
  • Phones and tablets are a completely different market to PCs; car sales don't impact on motorcycle sales, and tablets/have no chance competing with PCs at the desk.
    The issue here is the crossover, where either a device can fill all niches, or an OS becomes flexible enough to work on all devices.
  • Phones are more for you millennials that don't leave your parents basement. ios and lagdroid aren't even real OS's, but keep thinking they are. Lagdroid central is missing you.
  • "you millennials that don't leave your parents basement" I guess it takes one to know one.
  • I'd take a vintage Challenger over a lambo any day ;)
  • It'd say the overall Surface division in itself is cool and hip 'cause they nurture and grow with Windows, ever since they came to be.
  • With millions of professional working people using windows at their office, the last thing they think is cool is their "office computer"... just saying. Go could change that. I love my GO.... even stopped using my company issued Lenovo, and ditched the backpack to carry it.
    I did take my GO into starbucks the other day, and a few people come up to me asking if it was a GO and wanted to see it. One said they defiantly wanted to buy one after seeing mine. He was hauling around a mac pro, so maybe that makes the GO cool! good article Jason. Thanks
  • Microsoft gave up any hope of ever being cool when they decided to focus on business and not consumers.
  • I talked to a sales rep at the Microsoft store near me and they said the Go has been flying off the shelves
  • The faster the Go flies the sooner Andromeda comes
  • To be cool it needs to be slick and approachable and simple to use. It should be an unassumingly attractive and simple product with a better tablet experience while still being able to show off as a laptop replacement that can play awesome games and provide a fun experience. I'd personally like some hardware color options. Even a simple matte black would be cool.
  • Thing is, A better tablet experience is not what most are looking for now. Tablets are for checking facebook, reading a book and watching a movie. Thats all I use my ipad for. I hate using it to check these places as I cannot type comfortably on it. People ( in general ) are looking for a device that can do that, and more. The go is portable like an ipad, can do those things ( except for the damn texture app not working ), plus they can plug in periferals like drives, has access to the expanse of software available for windows ( much more powerful than apps ), and it's just an overall better device. I will never give up my ipad as there are a few apps I use on it that are not services by the companies website ( yes, I am bringing up texture again ). I use that app daily for magazine reading. For most everything else I grab my dell 2 in 1. The go is a great device and people seem to like it as well.
  • I'll be special ordering an 8/128 Go preloaded with Windows 10 Pro this weekend as the state's sales tax is waived for purchases under $2,500. The small battery that powers the Go is a bit of a concern. If the battery can support the device for six hours max, then, it will require recharging more frequently than a Surface Pro. The more often batteries are recharged, the sooner they will wear out.
  • Premium at entry level, better with each gen. be it specs or looks, thats how you get more users... Now just more of such devices, watch, speakers, tools...
    Something like 4th floor in the halo's library.
  • Most consumers are unproductive. So many of the features of the Go that are superior to an iPad or Android will be useless to the consumer, which is sad.
  • What is this article talking about Surface Pros are not cool? They out-Apple Apple!
    Also what is talking about being too expensive? Doesn't stop people buying Macbooks which are just as expensive.
  • "What is this article talking about Surface Pros are not cool? They out-Apple Apple!" Hi Peter, subjectively speaking I think Surface Pro, including my Surface Pro 2017, is a cool device. But what we're talking about here is larger the larger: Productivity-focused (not fun nor cool) marketing positioning and messaging by Microsoft for Surface Pro (vs Go). The broader consumer perception of Surface Pro as a predominantly productivity device, the more laid back leisure, "feel good" "tablet-mode" activities ( are not a big part of Microsoft's Surface Pro messaging nor much of the "consumer discussion." For the majority of the consumer market that keeps the device, though awesome, under the "very-functional-gets-the-job-done" shadow associated with Microsoft and Windows despite how "cool" 😎 some of us think it is. Surface Go, on the other hand is marketed leading with the "fun" tablet mode activities, a fun name, and the light easy to carry, not cumbersome size(the impact of which can't be overstated. The "mental weight of thinking about the footprint of a larger device is relieved here) lends a lot to the "cool effect" that is being marketed with the goal, that the Pro does not benefit from. Also what is talking about being too expensive? Doesn't stop people buying Macbooks which are just as expensive. Here you have to consider that yes, it is too expensive for a lot of people, just as Macbooks are. The reality that some people can afford and do buy Macbooks and Surface Pros doesn't ake away from the fact that they are intentionally higher-end devices that many people cannot afford and therefore don't buy. That's why there is a successful market for lower priced OEM 2-in-1s influenced by Surface Pro.
  • Let's face facts: what's keeping Surface Go or any other Windows device from being "cool" is the lack of an Apple logo. Apple is a trillion-dollar luxury goods company. There has not been nearly as much technological progress in the last twenty years as we might have imagined (watch the viral promo video for the 2012 film Prometheus; they imagined that by now we'd have all sorts of biotech and AI); so what's left to spend our money on but looking cool?
  • Hey software engineers, if you want a small Surface to succeed give us the option of moving everything from the task bar to the notification bar. Small screens need real estate and the taskbar eats up valuable space.
  • I became annoyed with the task bar taking up too much space at the bottom of my Surface Go. So, I used Settings to set the task bar to appear only if I hover the trackpad’s or mouse’s cursor at the bottom of the screen. Problem solved!
  • Like a menu that is only there is you do. Gesture based swipe from the right side that allows you to share, change settings quickly, access context menus, opens apps, and works like charm?
  • The main response I notice when using the Surface Go in public is people being puzzled. At Starbucks, on the bus or train, at a medical appointment, eyebrows are raised. Observers realize the Go is not the iPad typical for the size. But, they may not realize it is fully a Windows 10 computer. The most notable response is when I fold the Go down and tuck it into a little arm bag. ‘What is that?’ they’re wondering. As someone said, advertising would help. Consumers need to know the Go exists before deciding it is cool.
  • Microsoft will never have the "cool factor."
  • Not with that offering they won't. Only uncles and aunts care to just watch videos and browse the internet at that price. Where are all the cool and flashy MMORPGs? Where is Fortnite? PUBG, etc. etc. Microsoft product managers are number chunking drones with not a single shred of imagination and touch of what young people want
  • Cool factor is more of an apple thing. What would help is for them to get all the models available especially the LTE versions. I know plenty of people that would like that version especially in an enterprise setting as an accompanying device with their workstation computers.
  • Agree with the title. Spot on!
  • All I need now is for MS to actually sell this in Thailand. By that time there'll probably be a Surface Phone.
  • If surface Go does get popular and have a good traction, it will help improve the app ecosystem. Where there are users, devs will make the software for it. A strong app system will then help future device launches like andromeda. So far it has a good buzz among most tech critics, and I think the price point and somewhat global launch will make it a popular device, possibly the most popular Surface device ever. Time will tell. I want one, but will wait for the LTE version.
  • Corporate employees are out of touch with reality. If they want to compete with iPad, they should check out the price point and the actual offering for that price, and not practice wishful thinking. A Windows tablet these days feels less modern and less fun than iPad for the majority of young people who Microsoft hopes will care for it. See what games iPad can play at that price and compare it with the games one can play on the windows store. And before you start blabbering endlessly trying to defend your favorite brand, answer this question. Can Surface Go, at $360 play Fortnite and PUBG flawlessly?
  • Well the Ipad can also not play Fortnite and PUBG flawlessly at similar settings, the Go has a better igpu so those games will run better (besides other nice perks such a kickstand and option for ssd storage, microsd slot etc). Also there are tons of good indie & older games on Steam and GOG etc that the Go can play flawlessly, which while most lack touch input are more unique / less shallow imo than most tablet games. Then there are some good titles like the Shadowrun series that can be played with touch.
    They both offer their advantages and disadvantages.
  • I'm 50+ so the surface go looks cool to me, only problem I don't think what I think is cool matters. For me the surface go's selling point is it's not cool, it's a real computer that is portable and powerful enough to take on the move, whilst still being at a low price point - just look at the Salmon Sisters, it's not advertising cool, just your computer is portable enough to take with you. What does matter when you're 50, is making sure you give your kids equipment that can do everything you want them to, I'm not interested in Fortnight or Roblox (though the kids will), no it needs to run a browser so they can connect to school work, it needs to be able to run office apps and skype, and living in a dream world, it must run Python, Scratch or any of the other languages you might teach your kids to programme. It's adults who buy these machines, it's the convincing argument that wins the deal, not how cool it is, the fact it looks nice, helps win over the kids, but they ultimately don't make the decision. I just got an add from Fry's today, I can have a 9.7" Tab S2 with 64GB for $299, reduced from $499, so the go seems to be targeting the right price point. I suspect MS know that people will buy one in its basic form, then realise for a 'real' computer you need a real keyboard (I don't see the pen being an easy sell), but that keeps the headline price near the price of the iOS or Samsung devices in the same class. I've ordered one (the ebay voucher was too tempting), so I can try and so my oldest can try it and if it works out this might sell 3 of the machines, it's a very interesting prospect - I plan to use office, SQL and Visual Studio (developing new win32 apps for the guy who said new apps aren't being developed). Exciting not Cool is what is needed from MS, they are the IBM of today, I think they can do it, Xbox shows they have at least some soul left. I hope the Go is a success, it seems to be the first real challenge to the iPad dominance.
  • Surely, without a decent app ecosystem, it won't penetrate the casual computing market in the way needed.
  • App ecosystem in winStore is suffice for most people. Office is great for a device like this for productivity on the Go. There are lots of playable indie and older games on Steam/Gog, so that is covered too. The fully fledged browsers + plugins choice is better than on other platforms. The notes and art programs are there. There is some touch games on winStore and steam. There is GestureSign for handy gestures. So all in all good app/program choice. :)
  • Can I just say - I love my surface go
  • JF. Did you leave it in S mode or switch it to home? Glad your liking it, should be getting mine today.
  • Finally got this thing today! It's awesome to say the least. Had tons of things open while working in different windows. I thought I would change out of S mode but I ended up leaving it as I'm just using edge browser and it works great. Very impressed with this 8gb/128 model with kb 595.00 us.
  • Dan looks pretty ripped! Been hitting the gym I see!