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
POST A COMMENT

235 Comments

View All Comments

  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    A few things that caught my attention that would push me to buy one,

    "Surface is both larger and heavier than the iPad, both design decisions on Microsoft’s part to built a device that could better deal with Windows RT’s multitasking capabilities as well as make room for a comfortable typing area when used with one of its two keyboard covers."

    "Whether or not Surface is priced appropriately really depends on how much you value Windows RT and getting Office 2013 for free. I suspect if you’re already a big Office user, you’ll see a lot of value in the bundle."

    As much as I abhor the ribbon style in Office, I absolutely love the 2013 Office preview, its metro style UI, the fluidity of working around int he apps. Seriously I love this new office, its such a joy to work in them with the "metro" style inclusions. Therefore getting it for free is a nice touch if I consider buying one. FYI, I have all 3 versions running side by side to test (2003, 2010 and 2013) and 2013 is just so smooth to work in I can live with the ribbon bar (with my fully customized custom bar of course).

    As for the weight and comfortable typing, that's even better to use the tablet as a notebook for work and on the road. Can't wait.
    Reply
  • Subyman - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    It looks like MS is moving in the right direction. I like how they are splitting the difference between serious computing and be very mobile, unlike what Apple has done. Apple totally killed productivity with the iPad and seem to be trying to go back and mend that decision. MS is offering professionals options for typing, but the device is still totally usable by the normal consumer.

    I will be interested once the hardware become a bit more powerful. Win RT looks to be hammering the little ARM processor, but that will be worked out over the next year or so.
    Reply
  • JoeA - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Well balanced and written article with positive attributes and things that still can be improved. I’m an early adaptor because I physically work with tech and installs. I’m looking forward to Rev 2 and 3. The transition will not be as hard as some make it out to be. Have fun and yes agreed it’s just different and works very well. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Nice review. While there's always something better around the corner, this feels like really unfortunate timing on the CPU/SOC release schedule. On the low end we've got A9 ARM parts at the end of their competitive life, with A15 around the corner (or S4 Pro here would have been sweet). In the middle ground we've got Windows 8 tablets running a 5 year old Atom architecture that's finally about to be overhauled and shrunk to 22nm. Then on the high end we're not far away from Haswell. All 3 of those should provide noticeable improvements to performance (both CPU/GPU) and/or battery life. I'll definitely purchase a Windows 8 tablet, but it won't happen until the next CPU/SOC refresh. A Broadwell based Surface Pro with Thunderbolt/USB3/high res display...yum. Reply
  • Hoekie - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Nah, you can always wait for something better. Development takes time.
    The UI is fluid and that's the most important part regarding time to market for SoC's.
    Reply
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Apps are slow to launch. This thing can't really have a higher res panel because of Tegra 3 limitations. The moves to A15 class or the next Atom aren't little 10% spec bumps that we're used to on the desktop side. We're talking about very noticeable improvements to the user experience. S4 Pro devices are going to be available here next week. I'd buy a Surface RT right now with an S4 Pro and a 1920x1080 panel. If they added another $50 for the panel I wouldn't mind. Like I said, there's always something better around the corner, but this thing is making its debut at the twilight of 3 architectures (A9, Atom, Ivy). I'm not saying _they_ should have waited, I'm saying I'm going to wait because they can refresh both RT and Pro versions in a few months with changes that really matter (cpu/gpu/battery life) in a device designed for productivity. Every SOC refresh will get better, it's just that the next ones are major and are so close. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Apps are slow to launch. This thing can't really have a higher res panel because of Tegra 3 limitations. The moves to A15 class or the next Atom aren't little 10% spec bumps that we're used to on the desktop side. We're talking about very noticeable improvements to the user experience. S4 Pro devices are going to be available here next week. I'd buy a Surface RT right now with an S4 Pro and a 1920x1080 panel. If they added another $50 for the panel I wouldn't mind. Like I said, there's always something better around the corner, but this thing is making its debut at the twilight of 3 architectures (A9, Atom, Ivy). I'm not saying _they_ should have waited, I'm saying I'm going to wait because they can refresh both RT and Pro versions in a few months with changes that really matter (cpu/gpu/battery life) in a device designed for productivity. Every SOC refresh will get better, it's just that the next ones are major and are so close. Reply
  • Swift2001 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    People like yourfather239 -- interesting nickname -- are trolls. We, the sane people of the AnandTech comments, should be able to kick him off -- or demand attention of the site runner to read the exchange and kick him off. Even a reasonable discussion of racism and the dynamics of it would be okay on another site. But this guy is not contributing a thing. He's a bigot. He should not be rewarded by our attention. Reply
  • OldAndBusted - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Then again, your name calling is pretty ugly too. Reply
  • IKeelU - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Nice false equivalence, ace. Swift2001's "name calling" can be observed to be accurate, unlike the racist he's calling out. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now