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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  • jonyah - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    That's where Surface Pro comes in. I think pretty much everyone would go for the Pro if it were available day one, which is why they've delayed it. Core i5 power (though less battery life) and x86 compatibility will make it a winner.....i think.

    I hate windows 8 for any normal machine, though it may be nice in a tablet form. I'm still waiting to be able to actually play with one first.
    Reply
  • Zink - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    $900+ is too much for most people. Ultrabooks are amazing but sales numbers are poor. Sales are much higher on $500 laptops and tablets. The Surface Pro is also a bigger fan cooled device that won't offer the same battery life so the experience suffers there.

    I think the killer devices are the Atom tablets at $500. x86 and faster than ARM but with the same form factors and price. Asus is pricing at $600 for their VivioTab RT with battery/keyboard dock. I'd like to see 1080p too but maybe another product or manufacturer.
    Reply
  • shompa - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    *hint* Ultrabooks sell well: Macbook Air.
    PC can't compete with Apple at the same price. Today's ultrabook are priced same as Apple (but usually with larger SSD and/or faster processors).

    That is like a BMW priced same as a Skoda. Most people buy BMW.

    That is why Android tablets can't compete at the same price point as Apple.
    That is Surface will have a hard time.

    The rumour where that the Surface would cost 199 dollars, and that would have been a hit. (But OEMs would hate MSFT even more). The 199 price would work since people have to buy apps from MSFT paying them 30% on each app. MSFT subsidise Nokia phones and Xbox360 when it was release. This is a tactic they used many times before.

    And I believe that Surface will head that way. We will see a 50% price cut within a year.

    I really want to use Surface. But from the looks of it: its a nerd/corporate machine. The usual MSFT market. Wont sell 100 million.
    Reply
  • Hoekie - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Why? Get the cheaper 32GB version and pop in an SD card if price is an issue.

    Looking at the first reactions from people around me, Surface will be hot selling.
    Office + Multiuser + Light + batterytime+ touchcover+port connections. Actually a no brainer. In fact the 32GB no cover version is sould out everywhere including Germany.
    Reply
  • vision33r - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    MS will have to give away Xboxes again to move this after the initial batch of early adopter orders are filled. Reply
  • N4g4rok - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Care to elaborate? Reply
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    translation: "I don't like MS and/or Windows 8 but don't have anything useful to say." Reply
  • LancerVI - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    That was an extremely accurate translation. Bravo to you sure and thanks for the lulz. Reply
  • shompa - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    MSFT have given away many Xbox360 so sell Windows phone. MSFT have done similar things many times spending tens of billions to take market share and then start to charge more money.

    Surface wont fly of the shelves. After the first batch MSFT needs to do something. Giving away Xbox360 is cheap for them

    Later we will see a price cut. Up to 50% within a year. It will also be intresting if MSFT follows Apples "1 year" bump cycle or a more aggresive "pc/Android" bump cycle. iPad4 have 400% faster CPU and at least 800% faster GPU. A6 is as fast as Intel per clock cycle. (and yes: I understand that A6 is dual core and intel is quad + clocked much higher. But the fact is that A6 is as fast per clock cycle. ARM will replace X86)

    Surface is not a mass market product. It cant compete with the sub 300dollar 7 inch tablet market. It will have a hard time compete with Ultrabooks and Ipads.

    A MSFT product that cost the same as an Apple product have never sold.

    Surface +
    -its more of an PC. It could be the only computer
    -Office
    -Kickstand
    -the covers are great
    Surface -
    Pricey 600 dollars for ancient hardware.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    i would love to borrow your crystal ball some day! Reply

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