Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Focussed on the Surface

Microsoft have finally listened to the advice on my blog and taken control of the hardware as well as the software. And so we have the "Surface", Microsoft's own tablet - except that they like to call it a PC.

Is it going to be a success?

I think it will be a moderate success, partly due to the marketing muscle Microsoft will put into it and partly because it appears to be a well built device.

However in my opinion it has a "designed by committee" feel to it.

In the Steve Jobs era Apple never used focus groups. That is because Steve himself knew exactly what made a great device. He had the strength of character to drive forward a vision and ignore the thousands of distractions that present themselves along the way.

That "no compromise" approach is what results in insanely great products. That is why the iPad is a great tablet - it is not trying to be anything else.

The Surface, however, is trying to be a PC. It appears that Microsoft have put a lot of thought into the cover which doubles as a keyboard and touch pad. The problem is that the keyboard will not be as good as one built into a laptop so you are not going to buy a Surface to use as your main productivity machine. Especially when the screen is less than 11 inches in size. The idea of a tablet is that you can easily use it when you are sat down or even lying down. When used in this way the keyboard has no purpose. So for a tablet the keyboard is not that important - but with the Surface the cost of one will be included with the product.

The Surface also has a number of ports such as USB and HDMI. This means wires attached to your tablet. Wires! Wires are so last century!

Most unbelievably the Surface comes with a stylus - even after Apple have already proved that people prefer to use their fingers. How to you do multi-touch with a stylus? Will it come with extra styluses in case you keep losing them?

Every feature that a product contains represents a trade-off against the simplicity and purity of the device. At the very least it will add to the weight and cost of the unit. To keep a device simple requires tremendous passion and drive. That is what Steve Jobs had and it seems the Tim Cook learnt from him well. But does anyone at Microsoft understand this?

Having said all that, the Surface does look like a decent attempt at a business tablet and will probably sell well to the corporate sector. But I don't think it will make a dent to Apple's iPad sales. In fact it may increase them as it generates more publicity for the tablet sector of the market.

So the Surface is good for Microsoft and even better for Apple.


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