A Different Perspective

A week ago, I sat in an auditorium and listened to Steve Sinofsky talk about the tablet market. He talked about how the iPad was a great device, and a logical extension of the iPhone. Give iOS a bigger screen and all of the sudden you could do some things better on this new device. He talked about Android tablets, and Google’s learning process there, going from a phone OS on a tablet to eventually building Holo and creating a tablet-specific experience. He had nothing but good things to say about both competitors. I couldn’t tell just how sincere he was being, I don’t know Mr. Sinofsky all that well, but his thoughts were genuine, his analysis spot-on. Both Apple and Google tablets were good, in their own ways. What Steve said next didn’t really resonate with me until I had spent a few days with Surface. He called Surface and Windows RT Microsoft’s “perspective” on tablets. I don’t know if he even specifically called it a tablet, what stuck out was his emphasis on perspective.

I then listened to Panos Panay, GM of Microsoft’s Surface division, talk about wanting to control the messaging around Surface. He talked about how Microsoft’s June 18th event was scheduled because Surface was about to hit a point in its production where he could no longer guarantee there wouldn’t be substantial leaks about what the product actually was. He talked about the strict usage and testing guidelines everyone at Microsoft was forced to adhere to, again to avoid major leaks. He didn’t want Surface to be judged immediately and cast aside on someone else’s terms, because of some leak. Panos Panay wanted Microsoft to be the ones to bring Surface to market. Sure some rumors leaked about it before the June 18th event. A couple of weeks earlier, while I was in Taiwan, I even heard the local OEMs complaining about it (a lot of the “surprised” public outrage by Taiwanese OEMs was mostly politics). But for the most part, we didn’t know what Surface looked like and we had no concept of its design goals. Touch and Type Cover were both well guarded secrets.

I started off by recounting both of these stories for a reason. After using Microsoft’s Surface for the past week I can say that I honestly get it. This isn’t an iPad competitor, nor is it an Android tablet competitor. It truly is something different. A unique perspective, not necessarily the right one, but a different one that will definitely resonate well with some (not all) users. After the past week I also understand Panos Panay’s desire for secrecy. From a distance, without using one, Surface is easy to judge. It’s a Windows tablet that doesn’t run most Windows applications, that doesn’t have most of the same new mobile apps that iOS and Android have, and it’s not priced aggressively enough to make those facts disappear. After living with Surface however, I understand the appeal. It’s worth a discussion, perhaps even consideration as it does some things better than any tablet on the market, and it does others worse. Like all tablets (or smartphones even), there is no perfect platform, there are simply combinations of features and tradeoffs that resonate better with some users more than others. There are different perspectives.

Surface is Microsoft’s perspective. With the exception of some technical display discussion, Microsoft hardly mentioned the iPad in our Surface briefing. And when it did, it did so in a positive light. Microsoft isn’t delusional, the iPad is clearly a very well executed tablet. At the same time it believes there’s room for something else.

Surface: Simply Put
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  • tipoo - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    AFAIK they built it ground up in their existing hardware division. Reply
  • shompa - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    The rumour is that Steve Jobs ghost work at MSFT.

    Press, that are "Apple" nerds have been to MSFT labs and looked at their stuff. They have amazing laptops, computers and other stuff that they would buy direct. And these are people who are fanatical about beautiful design, liberal arts and that stuff should work.

    The sad thing for MSFT is all the politics. They have great products in their labs and cant release them because it makes OEM angry. Surface is for example a compromise. The 600 dollar price is ONLY because of OEM. MSFT cant price Surface aggressive since OEM would stop building RT stuff.

    And that is a huge threat to Windows. Surface was rumoured to cost 199 dollars. HP/Dell and other OEMs have started to look for alternative to windows (Unified Android). Valve have ported steam to Linux(and later Android).

    That is probably the feature.
    MSFT continues with their new integrated approach. Same as Apple.
    OEMs will start to use "open"/fragmented Linux/Android.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Except not, since the only OEM who can make a profit on Android is Samsung. Reply
  • Stas - Monday, November 05, 2012 - link

    You're delusional, if you think an open source platform can become dominant in the computer market. Reply
  • ol1bit - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    One word describes Microsoft and all their ideas.... LATE.

    They had a good lead in the smartphone arena and gave up. They couldn't see what the next big thing was going to be. iPhone took off, then Goggle really jumped on Android, pushed changes at a blistering pace. Microsoft lost the phone race...So go keep Nokia alive and try to catch up, doubt they will.

    Tablet are the same way. Market already lost. A gazillion apps for both iPad and Android Tablets.

    Everything MS does is 2 steps behind. I know they hope to catch up, but I have 3 Android devices, and Love it. All my apps carry from device to device as it should. Goggle keeps pumping out great enhancements, same with Apple.

    Oh well.
    Reply
  • sunflowerfly - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    "Tablet are the same way. Market already lost. A gazillion apps for both iPad and Android Tablets."

    Actually Android has very few tablet apps. I believe Microsoft will take over and become the number 2 tablet within a year. Google is giving away tablets at cost because the public is not buying them (not that a few million sold to geeks is a bad gig).
    Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    people said the same thing about netbooks when they were all launching with linux, what you forget is that yes MS is late but they have won even though they were late to many parties. Vertical integration and supply chain control are huge factors. To most people office cost $100 and any of these devices shipping with free office means it is $100 cheaper. Now you get vertical integration, MS is going to leverage office to muscle into the tablet space, and what is so nice is that rather than just sit on office / windows and let that win the game they are actually going a little above and beyond by bringing the surface keyboard to the market and bringing out what is mostly a high quality well built device. Reply
  • DukeN - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    How the fuck is Microsoft late wrt to ideas?

    Microsoft had a tablet OS out about 10 years ago, couldn't execute it with their partners so it languished.

    Maybe they can't execute but they definitely aren't LATE.
    Reply
  • xSauronx - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Last year work gave us all ipad2 32gb units as part of the christmas bonus. i dont love ios, and prefer android for a phone and tablet, but i understand why people like it, and it was definitely a great tablet. sold it for an android, however.

    id love to get one of these this year...i'd be very interested in trying one out for a week. hopefully there will be apps a plenty for this, or at least a good ecosystem for the full windows 8 tablets in the future. i could see me moving away from android for this...maybe
    Reply
  • OVerLoRDI - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I really am impressed with this offering from MS. As a long time PC user and one who types a lot, tablets were absolutely out of the question for me, typing on glass has and always will be a fail.

    That being said, I don't love it enough to pony up that much money.

    I'm also curious to see how Win8 works on smartphones, it seems like it could be a great OS.
    Reply

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