On Microsoft Surface

June 18, 2012

Microsoft just announced Surface, on first glance, an iPad / Android tablet competitor. But due to a cover that integrates a keyboard and full Windows 8 - it could also be going after laptops in general.

It’s pretty clear Microsoft took cues from Apple – the slick presentation, emphasis on hardware design, the experience of the end-user, etc. But a key difference from Apple is how Surface tries to cover all the angles – keyboard, pen input, full Windows. Almost as if the Surface could be a tablet, portable, and desktop all in one device. Meanwhile, Apple seems intent on keeping its iOS devices relatively separate from the Mac line, possibly from a design decision that a multi-purpose, transforming design would do each task poorly.

I’m not sure which road is correct. I’ve definitely dreamed of a MacBook Air that somehow transformed into an iPad. But I currently feel content with separate devices – a MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone – and switch between them pretty regularly. I rarely find myself yearning for a physical keyboard while using the iPad, and my current work-around for full OS X on an iDevice is screen-sharing to the desktop. Ultimately, a physical keyboard would somehow dilute the iOS touch experience – it’s frankly similar to training-wheels. Touch is the future and Apple’s prodding us to move forward. Does anyone miss the physical keypad on an iPhone?

But still, the Microsoft Surface presentation makes a transforming device look pretty cool. And it’ll appeal to a certain “worried” sort of customer (aged relative still uncomfortable around computers in general) that isn’t totally sold on the tablet experience, most specifically touch – not ready to abandon a keyboard and mouse, and unable to decide between a tablet or a notebook.

Of course, Microsoft hasn’t hit a home run just yet. A huge part of Surface’s success will be availability and pricing, which the presentation didn’t address. It better come out this year, and can’t be priced like a notebook computer ($1000 plus) which would = DOA.

Anyhow, I don’t think Apple has much to be concerned about here, but I can already say with confidence I’d get this Surface thing sooner than an Android tablet. So you-know-who should definitely be concerned – all their half-assed iPad competitors just got blown out of the water. I hope this Surface causes tons of competition for Android tablets, to where consumers just throw their hands in the air out of confusion – and get an iPad instead.


  1. SpragueD says:

    In your 3rd and 4th paragraphs you’re dancing around the point: this device will appeal to people who don’t have the luxury of being able to buy multiple devices (e.g., the Mac + iPad segment). That’s a hell of a lot of people :-)

    Google should always be scared just because they’re evil and Jehovah will smite their asses (eventually). Until then, they’ll rely on swarms of low-end iPad and Surface knockoffs and scrape up the pennies they provide.

    Pricing is key — but I think MSFT has plenty of ways to go. Remember they are testing subscription models for Xbox. That could be killer ($99 Surface + 2 year contract for content + data).

    I actually think whether they can churn our lightweight Metro apps + their Xbox media content will be most important. Apple doesn’t just provide great hardware — they provide an ecosystem.

    • Yeah, fair enough – not everyone can get all the things. Guess I still recall the days when a decent computer was $2 – $3K so a $999 Air and $500 iPad seems like a deal. If only I could do everything on an iPod Touch…

      And, yeah, playing up the synergy between Xbox and Windows PC you have at home could be big incentives to getting one of these Surface things. Meanwhile, that’s another Google weak spot – no desktop OS or PC products to add to the equation.