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


View All Comments

  • WP7Mango - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    No. That's what the Surface Pro is for. Reply
  • tzhu07 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    If I were to buy a tablet today, I'll still take the iPad for the most widespread support. Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    So what's up with the Windows RT review? Really looking forward to it, but it's a day+ late now (at least I thought I saw that it was supposed to be up later the same day of the Surface review). =( Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    So what's up with the Windows RT review? Really looking forward to it, but it's a day+ late now (at least I thought I saw that it was supposed to be up later the same day of the Surface review). =( Reply
  • simbadogg - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I believe on microsofts spec/surface page they said it was a proprietary connection for HDMI / video out. Is this a standard micro HDMI connector? If so what type (C, D?). Just wanting to know if there can actually be other cables used other than the standard microsoft cable. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Windows RT reminds me so much of XP x64. I think that the next full release/update of RT will be a lot better than this one. I think by then it'll become clear that apps launching slowly and overall lethargic performance is part of what Jobs KNEW was an important component of having a slick, awesome device.

    Your device has to "feel" fast in order for users to think it's fast. It may not be actually fast, but they have to feel like it is. Every review says the same thing. "It's great, it's different, I really like it, I want to love it, but it's so slow..."

    It feels slow because the transitions are slow and the design was not built around tricking the user into thinking it's faster than it is. The whole iOS core started around doing this very thing. Tricking the user into thinking slow hardware was fast with clever use of transitions and design.

    It seems like MS did not learn this lesson. Hell, it was in the Jobs biography. Perhaps they should read more.
  • antef - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Anand, you mention having to double-press or long-press to switch apps on other platforms, but that's not the case with Android in general, only with the new Samsung and LG phones. The other manufacturers rightly went with the Google standard of including a dedicated button for app switching, so it's one press to bring up a list with thumbnails and another press to go to the app you want. I don't think MS's implementation is any better than that. This is the issue with most people using Samsung's and LG's poor designs and not realizing Android is better elsewhere. Of course, Windows RT still wins when it comes to side-by-side mode. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    A few reviews complained about using the stand on a lap or any non-level surface being unsteady, with the touch cover you can flip it back half way and then have the stand resting on THAT rather than your lap. That should be much more stable as it now has a level surface and much more surface area. Reply
  • pblock - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Thank you for a wonderful, comprehensive review. However, at our office, most of the talk is wondering if the Surface will be usable on your lap. Does the stand work on your lap, or is it too awkward? And what about each of the keyboard covers? Most of us who use laptops rarely place them on a table or desk but instead are using them on the couch or in an easy chair. Reply
  • techenthu - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    It has a USB port . Can i use a data card with this?
    I am sure carriers need some installation before use the data card . So i was wondering if surface will allow using the data card

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