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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  • Netscorer - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I am right now typing on my lap using the $599 3.4lb Visio Ultrabook with 1600x900 14'' real IPS screen, iCore 3 Ivy Bridge CPU with HD4000 graphics, 128Gb SSD and 4GB of RAM that can run both MS Office, Photoshop and Bioshock with the supreme authority and multi-task like there is no tomorrow.
    This incidentally is the exact same price that Microsoft wants for Surface with touch keyboard.

    To me, IMHO, after you remove all that magnesium this and kickstand that marketing slogans taken straight from Microsoft brochure, my Visio Ultrabook is a much better and more important, usable device, period.
    Reply
  • seapeople - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    Cool story bro. Wish you weren't lying about the IPS screen thing. Reply
  • karasaj - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Does anybody think that an S4 Pro update or Tegra 4 in January-February of 2013 for Surface RT at the same price point as the current surface would be possible? That would be a serious tablet I think. It seems like Surface needs just a little more oomph to be a fantastic piece of equipment - how likely do y'all think (Anand reply maybe?) this is possible? Reply
  • Krysto - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    If Tegra 3 wasn't enough. S4 Pro won't be either. And you won't see a Tegra 4 Windows device until next fall.

    What Anand masterfully avoided to say in his review (who knows why?!) is that Tegra 3 works a lot better with Jelly Bean than it does with Windows RT. Windows RT just doesn't work as well as Android or iOS on the weaker ARM chips, and it needs something a lot more powerful and more expensive to run adequately. I mean it needs 2-5x the time to open an app compared to iPad? Really?
    Reply
  • karasaj - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Well S4 Pro is a good bit stronger than Tegra 3 especially in single threaded stuff, no? We've seen it match up to the iphone 5 already, while Tegra gets beat bad. Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Don't listen to Krysto or Netscorer, they don't have anything useful to say.

    I agree, the Tegra3 is obviously about the minimum WinRT can get away with. I'm not sure why MSFT didn't go with an S4 Pro or just plain S4 clocked up a bit. They're already using Qualcomm SoCs in their Windows 8 Phones, and either way (particularly the S4 Pro) would've been better than the Tegra3.
    Reply
  • ananduser - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Honest review(this and the other RT device) and certainly more in-depth than CNet, Gizmodo(2 stars) and the Verge, that managed in one page to destroy winRT/AsusVivo. Reply
  • Krysto - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Honest review because you like it? I think Anand tried to make it as good as possible with all its negatives. That's not objective, that's covering up its flaws, in a biased manner. Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Yeah, couldn't be that you're picking on the negatives and dismissing the positives because you're the one who's biased.

    Nah, couldn't be that.
    Reply
  • Ikefu - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    When does the surface pro get released?

    If I can install all my work software under standard windows on a tablet of this quality I'm thinking I might be ready to bite. This would be so much more convenient to work on a plane with or in bed at night then my laptop. (Plus I can actually be productive instead of play games on my wife's iPad lol)
    Reply

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