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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  • vedye - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Wow. No idea how u got that impression. Especially after reading the opening. You must have a strong imindpower. Reply
  • anomaly597 - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Yeah, you definitely have no preconceived allegiances or anything. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Are you aware of the name of the website you're reading? It's ANANDtech, Anand started it himself years ago and runs the show. He's not sold off control to any media conglomerate or other company. There is no way anyone can truly 'force' him to do anything on his webiste. Reply
  • krutou - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    Doesn't mean he's not biased. Reply
  • tviceman - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Did you really just say "Apple" and "magic" in the same sentence without being sarcastic??? Reply
  • Gradly - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Yes this is true. It feels like this:
    The software sometimes buggy yet that's OK, the display is not perfect or retina but its OK, Its not a competitors to iPad or Androids but a completely new species and that's OK, the kickstand may break if you pressed hard on it and that's OK, the classic windows interface may be not suitable for touch but against all odds its OK, you need time to get used to the keyboard and I read some of reviewers had troubles pressing lightly or hard in order to type but however its OK, lack of applications and this is OK, etc

    Overall Its totally OK
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Lets see:

    Ipad 2012 review - ~20 pages

    iphone 5 review ~20 pages

    Ipad keyboard review - 3 pages all by it self

    Iphone 4s review ~15 pages

    Galaxy note 2 review - ~10 pages

    Brand new product, with a brand new os, from a major player in the market

    gets ~11 pages of a review.

    hmm.

    Just rename the site appletech.

    Said that it has swung so much into an i-love website.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I meant sad, not said. Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    @Michal1980, your comments are rather absurd! What do you mean he was forced to do it? If he didn't want to review it, he can easily return the device. Secondly, what magic is losing out of Apple devices? He me mentions potential flaws in them just like he mention them in the Surface. Haven't you even read the review? Yes, he pointed out some of the flaws in the device, but he also said that this was one of the best tablets on the market right now and a very well executed effort.

    And, for those who claim he is biased, how can you ask your views on such absurd comments, like Michal's? They have nearly no substance to them - oh, and far worse are those who are accusing him of favouring Apple because he is Indian. This is levels beyond ridiculous.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I meant oozing out of apple devices.

    And my comment is based on reading all of the reviews. Theres a far different tone in apply articles then this one.

    Like I said before, the article reads like it was forced. Go back and read an apple review, and the tone is far different. While no one can 'force' Anand to do anything, this article IMHO reads like he only wrote it because its part of his job.
    Reply

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