At the time of the announcement for this new material Microsoft ended up getting pegged as a copycat since they looked like they were stealing the term “liquid metal” from Apple. Apple had already announced they had exclusive rights to Liquidmetal Technologies’ IP for the manufacture of their “I” devices. It turned out that the VaporMag was not the same as what Apple is using, but the damage was done. Strangely enough the same team that opted for the VaporMag material is also the one looking into the translucent aluminum (Oxynitride Aluminum). Microsoft announced that their wearable computing device would move away from the Xbox team to the Surface team and shortly after that the news about the new material leaked.
Oxynitride Aluminum is not cheap and it is sure to add to end-user cost. When you add in a SoC, touch enabled material, Bluetooth storage and possibly more the price tag of this device is sure to be fairly high. This means that Microsoft would have to push out pricing similar to what we saw from the Surface RT and Surface Pro. This pricing structure hurt (and is still hurting) Surface sales as the existing devices cost more than most consumers were willing to pay. Microsoft has to remember that these are consumer devices and even the enthusiasts are not going to pop for a $500+ device if all they are getting is a cool build material. Microsoft should have learned their lesson about designing and building their own devices. They tend to miss the boat on what consumers really want in their products and try for outrageous ideas that do not catch on (anyone remember the Kin?).
The Surface team would be better served in taking a look at what would make a “smart” watch a success instead of dumping money into an exotic material. Right now the existing designs and all lacking in critical functionality (no active sync or push notification, no wireless, no 3G and poor battery life). These products are little more than companion devices that cannot work without a phone to connect to. If Microsoft can dive into that need and address it they will find themselves at the head of the pack. Instead it seems they want to worry about removable bands and translucent aluminum cases… and that is why they continue to fail.
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