ZDNet is reporting today that Microsoft has quietly discontinued the Surface Wireless Keyboard Adapter. Announced in September 2013, the wireless bar utilized Bluetooth technology to allow a Surface owner to do keyboarding up to 30 feet away from the Surface device. Neat, maybe, but probably not as practical and as purchase-worthy as when Microsoft originally thought it up.
And, this really underscores a problem. Microsoft has promised accessories yet the company is constantly late delivering them. When the add-ons finally do become available for purchase, the virtual shelves empty quickly and restocking takes several weeks, sometimes several months.
Even the Surface devices themselves are notorious for being unavailable. Just recently the original Surface Pro disappeared from the Microsoft Online Store and availability on Amazon and at Best Buy showed limited.
Jump out to the Microsoft Store today, and I wish you luck locating the highly sought-after docking station. A picture of it exists on the main accessory page, but once you dig deeper, it's nowhere to be found. Just a tease.
Does this mean that demand is high or that Microsoft is afraid to get bit again after the original Surface RT failed to enamor the public?
No matter what the reason, searching for a desired accessory is like rummaging through a box at a garage sale, or spending the day at a flea market rifling past fake ninja swords and through old comic book boxes. As a Surface owner, I find it highly irregular and severely frustrating that I can't just make an accessory purchase when I want and instead have to check the online store daily to see if the delivery truck decided to show up today.
As Apple can attest, the initial device sale is only a small piece of the overall value. Directly after purchasing a new iPhone or iPad, customers will grab an extra charger, a car charger, a second proprietary "lightning" cable, and then move on to cases and keyboards. The accessory market is where the actual revenue exists. Originally, Apple controlled accessories with an iron fist, ensuring proprietary designs that meant the company would benefit from all additional purchases for the life of the device.
Apple has since relaxed a bit, but it still highlights an area where Microsoft is simply not taking full advantage. Microsoft's add-ons are just as pricey as Apple's, but there are potential customers willing to own officially licensed devices if they were only available. A steady stream of accessory sales could offset Surface device costs and even drive Surface prices lower, bringing the devices within easier purchase reach for more people.
I would say that Microsoft is new to the hardware business, and give them a "newbie" allowance, but the company has a fine assortment of PC keyboards, mice, and LifeCams and has provided them for years. The Surface business seems to have confounded the company and is evidence that it must be run by an entirely different group. If the company cannot keep on top of stock and availability for Surface accessories, I'd suggest they outsource management to a company that can.