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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  • Mumrik - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    As someone who picked up a 32GB HP Touchpad for $149 and slapped ICS on it via CyanogenMod, I still don't understand the appeal of this kind of tablet.

    To me, it physically looks absolute great, and blows any iPad out of the waters (but, to be fair, I never liked Apple's designs), but I still don't know why one would buy a $5-600 high end tablet. Why not a compact laptop at that point? We're clearly far beyond a few mobile games, youtube/720P videos and ebooks. Don't tablets make more sense at the lower end?

    For $149, I've gotten a hell of a lot out of my tablet, but these are on the edge of ThinkPad X-series territory.
    Reply
  • Zink - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    That was a fire sale for way bellow cost so it doesn't really apply to current pricing.

    Tablets don't replace portable laptops, just another option. Both have their trade offs and fit different users, for example my Mom. Many users also have a tablet in addition to a laptop.

    Tablets offer multi-touch for games and relaxed use, battery life, portability, simplicity, and screen quality to name a few benefits.
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    The firesale was part of my point, but that general price bracket also now exists as a regular part of the tablet market.

    The things you mention at the end are what I see them do as well, but where does the 500+ dollar tablet fit into that? Unless you want some ultra high definition on that screen, those needs are filled quite well by cheaper tablets.
    Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I would agree with you but at $499 or higher apple is moving millions of tablets so clearly other people do not seem to think that way. Your comments are basically neither here no there. The usefulness of slate tablets is a side arguement, I do not own them as you said because I would rather just have a real functional laptop. But part of the greatness of windows 8 is that it will finally push vendors to not so much jump into the tablet market but actually functionally merge the laptop and the laptop to a point where they become one device and no one needs to make a decision about one or the other or carry both. Reply
  • shompa - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Do you really think its a mass market to hack tablets?

    This is a product for non-nerds and Office.

    (Hint: When you get older you will stop caring about hacking stuff. You want thing just to work. After working 8 hour with computers you want to come home to a computer setup that works. Including that all you family and friends have working stuff since you are support 24/7 for them. Many IT professionals like me solves this by just buying a bunch of macs and hand them out. "now it works. Don't call me for support".
    Building you own PCs are meaningless. You have 1000 dollar extra to buy an Alienware. You also will be interested in pussy. Beautiful designed stuff (like Apple stuff) attracts pussy. And I like pussy even if I am married. (*hint2* never get married). Hacking stuff is a pussy repellant. If they see a home built PC or strange Tablet with strange OS. *poof* pussy gone.
    Reply
  • blandge - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    This may be the dumbest thing I've seen somebody say on the internet. Specifically the last paragraph. Reply
  • superflex - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Or the most brilliant.
    I concur with the OP. Who has time to fuck with flashing ROMs and installing modded OS's. Would you rather OC your CPU and memory with a new BIOS or be hitting some strange?
    I've built plenty of PCs but now the last thing I want to do is go home and fuck around with making sure my OC temps are stable or I have the highest benchmark score.
    Get a life dude. Pussy rules!
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Yeah, because women just love the sort of person who says "pussy" repeatedly. In the comments of an article on a tech blog.

    Seriously, if you don't like tech, then what the hell are you doing here? Go annoy some people on some pussy blog somewhere.
    Reply
  • Stas - Monday, November 05, 2012 - link

    You sound like you didn't get out of your mom's basement until you hit 21 when your friends eventually got you out to a bar. They hooked you up with a drunk broad so you can finally lose your virginity. Now you're a self-proclaimed frat bro with mad game.
    Hint: normal, developed adult males don't act like a 12-y.o. girl getting the new Justin Beiber CD at the sight of a frisky female. "Pussy" is just something that happens, they get it like they get their coffee in the morning - it's a normal occurrence or even convenience. Remember how, a couple of years ago - in high school, you couldn't stop bragged in class about your dad's sick new Mustang? Well, it's not like that. Bigger things excite grown-ass men - hobbies, jobs they love, personal projects... shit, even politics. And to some, computers and electronics are one of those things.
    But, anyways, you'll get it. Eventually.
    Reply
  • kozlowski - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Anand, do you know if Microsoft organically grew the hardware unit that built Surface, or did they buy a hardware team and integrate it into MS? Reply

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