Microsoft's newly launched Surface tablet attracted hundreds of buyers at a Beijing electronics store at midnight on Friday morning, with customers stating they had high hopes the device could offer an innovative user experience over rival tablets including Apple's iPad.
Among those waiting in line was 25-year-old Chen Shi, who got a Microsoft certificate for being the first in the world to receive the Surface tablet. Chen waited first in line for 30 hours, and said he was especially interested in Windows RT, the OS that runs on the device.
"The tablet supports more software features for office work, things that you would actually use," he said. "Basically, Microsoft is reinventing the tablet, because now people are used to using their tablets as toys, and only use them to play games. These tablets lack features to do work for the office."
Microsoft is launching its Surface tablet in China in order to tap into one of the world's largest markets, where PC and smartphone shipments have already overtaken the U.S. But the company will have to go up against Apple, which had a 69 percent share in China's tablet market in this year's second quarter, according to research firm IDC.
Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets, already available in the U.S., have yet to officially arrive in the country. But lower-priced Android tablets have been made available through Chinese PC maker Lenovo, which had the second largest tablet market share in the country, at 12 percent. Samsung is the third largest tablet vendor in China with a 4 percent share.
Along with its own online sales channel, Microsoft is using Chinese retailer Suning Electronics, which has hundreds of stores in the country, to sell its Surface tablet. The prices for the device are also comparable with Apple's iPad.
But while the Surface tablet boasts an impressive design and features localized for the Chinese market, the device could still be a hard sell for consumers in the country, given the iPad's popularity in China, said Kitty Fok, an analyst with IDC. "[The Surface tablet] is not really a low price product," she said. "For the people who can buy it, they probably have an iPad already."
Some Apple users in Beijing, however, said they wanted to buy Microsoft's Surface tablet because it offered something different over other tablets. "This is the first time Microsoft is coming out with something like this. It's something fresh," said Chen Lei, who owns an iPad, but was waiting in line to buy Microsoft's tablet.
He thinks that Microsoft's Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets could gain popularity in the country because of their productivity features, including a version of the new Office 2013 suite.
"Once people hear that these tablets have Office on them, then I think it will become popular," he added.
Wang Hui, a 25-year old, was also in line, and said she wanted to buy the Surface tablet because of features such as its Type Cover and sleek design.
"I feel like everyone has an iPad. I don't want to buy the same thing as everyone else," she said. "I think the Surface tablet can become popular in China. It's what all my friends have been talking about."
But not everyone was so optimistic about the device's prospects in China. Kang Zheng, who is 23, also waited in line to buy the Surface tablet. But he criticized Windows RT for not being able to run legacy Windows software. The iPad, on the other hand, can run a vast number of apps from Apple's App Store.
"I don't think the Surface will be more popular than the iPad," he said. "There is so much software the Surface tablet can't use, and the price is still too high."
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