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It's fitting that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) chose last night's Monday Night Football to introduce its first Surface commercial.
After all, the San Diego Chargers had a commanding 24-0 lead at halftime.
The Denver Broncos seemed out of sync on both ends of the ball. Peyton Manning -- the aging quarterback great that was discarded by the lowly Indianapolis Colts during the offseason -- couldn't score.
Given Microsoft's shortfalls in hardware outside of the Xbox's success, few seem to be giving the software giant much of a shot in the tablet space, where Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has cornered the market with the iPad and the open-source nature of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android seems to be powering nearly everything else. Cynics will argue that Microsoft's greatest days are in the past.
Microsoft is Manning. Microsoft is the Denver Broncos.
Then something magical happened. Manning and the Broncos started to score. They couldn't stop. They won with a surprisingly lopsided 35-24 score that must've been a shock to anyone that assumed that the game was over at halftime.
Microsoft can only hope that it has that kind of second half.
The new TV ad is playful. The commercial shows off the magnetically attached keyboard and snapping kickstand that Microsoft hopes will set it apart from the iPad and the many iPad wannabes. Somewhere between the break dancers and soaked fountain cavorters, Microsoft wants to establish Surface as a tablet that will work for both entertainment-seeking consumers and productivity-minded enterprises.
Oct. 26 is the date when it will all come together.
Microsoft may need more than choreographed whimsy to make a dent in this booming market, but it's not as if it has much of a choice. PC sales are fading, and Windows 8 alone may not be the desktop and laptop savior that Microsoft bulls originally envisioned.
Surface tablets won't come cheap. Microsoft's pricing starts at a stiff $599 for the models with the magnetic keyboards that are played up in the new ads, and that's just for the line running the watered-down Windows 8 RT operating system. Consumers will have to pay even more when the more powerful Windows 8 Pro tablets hit the market in a few months. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) stumbled badly when they priced their tablets at comparable prices to the iPad despite superior specs. Can Microsoft -- with so much to lose -- afford to price the Surface so high?
Then again, skeptics also argued that the Broncos were overpaying Manning and his seasoned (yet untested) arm earlier this year.
The bet paid off for Denver last night. Soon we'll see if Microsoft's Monday night gamble will pay off.
It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In this brand-new premium report on Microsoft, our analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, the challenges are many. He's also providing regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.