Microsoft, in hedging its tablets bets between the Windows RT it believed people readily wanted and the Windows 8 it believed it could get them to accept, doomed both Surface tablet lines to failure. That reality became apparent this week at it cut the price of the Pro by $100 after having cut the RT price earlier. But the whole thing has dissolved into a farce and is threatening to leave Microsoft DOA, in proverbial alphabet soup speak. And it’s even worse for Dell, a company fighting for its very existence while also trying to hawk Microsoft’s Windows RT tablets at even deeper price cuts.

The tablet market is thriving for standard tablets like the iPad and the various Android tablets which resemble it in functionality, but Microsoft felt it had a better approach: offer an overpowering tablet which also has full PC functionality built into it. The message: the iPad isn’t powerful enough, so upgrade to the Surface Pro.

The trouble? Microsoft knew some people would reject the notion of the Surface Pro out of hand, and so it hedged its bets by also offering an iPad copycat called the Surface RT. Its sales have been nothing short of disastrous. And its mere existence has killed off Surface Pro prospects. Steve Ballmer and company have been left trying to promote a message along the lines of “The iPad stinks so here’s something better, and if you don’t believe us, here’s an iPad knockoff instead.” That painted the Pro as something Microsoft didn’t truly believe in, and the RT as a fake iPad with nothing to offer over the real iPad.

Proponents of the Surface Pro and its Windows 8 operating system will argue that the platform has its merits over competing tablet products. But that doesn’t matter as long as the public perceives Microsoft’s tablet initiative as a confused mess. Even with the Surface RT being essentially retired this month with massive price cuts aimed at clearing out the backlog of initial stock, the Surface Pro may never be given a chance by the public.

That leaves Microsoft to wait a year and try again under a new brand name, as both “Surface RT” and “Surface Pro” are now synonymous with “pariah” in the minds of most consumers, accurate or otherwise. But Dell may not be around in a way to find out how it goes.

Microsoft Windows RT DOA: will Dell pay for Steve Ballmer’s sins?

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