Interesting reactions to Microsoft's latest vapourware release this week: it's so-called Surface tablet.
Once upon a time the convicted monopolist could be virtually assured of a credulous press for pretty much any announcement, but with slipping market share in everything from phones to browser usage, it seems the gloves are off. To be sure there were a few uncritical "ooo's" and "aah's", and even a couple of "watch out Apple!" warnings, but it seems they've pulled this stunt a few times too many.
I were to guess what was on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s mind it was
simply to beat next week’s expected announcement of a Google brand
tablet running Android. Microsoft, already playing catch-up to Apple’s
iPad, did not want to be seen as following Google, too. So they held an
event that was all style and no substance at all.
According to the founder of Acer, Stan Shih:
has no real intention to sell own-brand tablet PCs and the offering is
[a] ploy to boost adoption of Windows 8.
Microsoft hopes that marketing its own-brand tablet PCs will encourage vendors to offer Windows 8 tablet PCs and thereby help expand market demand for the product line.
Microsoft has no reason to sell hardware because such sales bring much less profit than licensing its software products... In addition, Microsoft will face many difficulties marketing tablet PCs on its own, including production management, distribution, and after-sales maintenance service.
And if they're really seeking to compete with Apple, it's worth remembering that Apple makes its own CPUs. Microsoft doesn't.
The name of the product bugged a few people:
has been around for a while. In fact, it was just last year that the
the Surface 2. But this is no tablet. It’s a huge, poorly-selling
showpiece, running Windows 7. Doesn’t it muddy the waters, so to speak,
to name your new tablet the same thing as your nearly-vaporware device
that you’ve had for years?
To make matters worse, the device is either a Surface or a Surface Pro. The former being the Windows RT version (read: stripped-down, cheaper) and the latter being the Windows 8 device.
In fact the stripped-down version has already been nicknamed the "sub-Surface".
Then there's the absence of detailed specifications, battery performance, shipping date or even price:
have a range, but not even a solid one. The RT model will be priced in
line with other ARM-based tablets, and the Pro version will hit the
range of ”Intel-based Ultrabooks„. In case you’ve not been following
along, Ultrabooks have a price range from somewhere around [US]$500 to
upwards of [US]$1200, depending on the model. You simply can’t be that
vague with a device that holds such an iconic potential.
To cap it all, this video of Surface crashing during a demo went viral:
(To his credit, presenter Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, handled it well.)
One thing everyone seemed to miss was that Surface runs on ARM-based architecture, and that means you'll never be able to run another OS on your tablet. Why? Because Microsoft's Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements insist that all ARM-based machines use a UEFI Secure Boot that specifically locks the hardware to Windows 8. (You can read more about this in our July print issue.)
The attitude of many journalists to the Surface announcement was summed up by a rather cranky Jason Perlow:
let me get this straight, Microsoft. You made journalists
schlep across the country, no, the planet, for a product that might not
ship for months? You’re lucky they didn’t burn the venue
Okay, no ship date, no prices and no compelling 3rd-party applications or even Office to show on it whatsoever. So we have no idea how well it performs, and how well supported it will be by 3rd-party software developers. No partnerships to speak of. Nada.
No demonstration or even any claims of how good the battery life on each model is. Nothing to say whatsoever about the nature of what display technology they are using, whether it is OLED or LED/LCD backlight or something else. Great, so one is a 720p and the other is a 1080p. Details, please.
Gee, that doesn’t exactly make folks want to stop in their tracks from buying iPad 3s, does it?