As a CoolSmartPhone reader, there’s a very good chance you are already aware that on Monday, Microsoft announced their own Surface branded 10.6” Windows 8 family of tablets PC’s and accessories.
Microsoft announced it at a surprising presentation. Not surprising that it was a tablet, more surprising in style and content. If we look back just a few weeks to E3 where Microsoft had their annual press conference for their games business, we saw a stilted, embarrassing conference that they seem to do every year. But this Surface announcement conference was strikingly confident and refined.
This may well be a reflection of the products themselves, as they seem very confident in what they have produced. 2 Tablets, one aimed at the iPad market, and one clearly aimed at the MacBook Air and Ultrabook market. As well as primarily aiming these devices at specific Apple products they also were very Apple like in their presentation. The CEO primed the audience, then followed by one expert on the software and one on the hardware. They also spoke in very apple like ways, speaking about how it make you or them feel to use the product.
The smart covers as well we’re introduced in a very Apple way, if you watch the presentation, they were very careful to not let you see that they were also keyboards until they’d pointed out how nice the feel to touch and how the tablet feels like a book when the cover is closed. They keyboards look very nice, my partner is already planning to buy the Pink keyboard when I inevitably buy a Surface later this year when they become available. I suspect we’ll end up with one each. I personally prefer the Type Cover rather than the Touch cover.
Surface seems to make Windows 8 make more sense. The dual desktop without the start button and the metro interface is just confusing to me and I’ve been wondering why anyone would move from Windows 7 to Windows 8? Surface answers that question for me. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but upon seeing the Surface presentation, I felt like I understood.
The presentation also went deep into how it’s been designed and how that design makes you feel, I don’t think I’ve heard the word chamfered (at 22 degrees) as many times in my life. The design of the whole product to me seems excellent. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen design being such a key aspect of anything Microsoft have ever done.
The real question though is, Can these products be a success?
I think there are 4 key factors to the success or failure of these products in the market. Like it or not, these products are iPad and MacBook Air competitors. These products lead their respective markets and if you want to be a success these are the products that you need to take on, but not necessarily beat.
The first thing they have to do is deliver the promise. The presentation showed a tablet that just works (Apart from the moment when it didn’t.) It looked very nice to use, and the few short demos made me think it could be something I want, it needs to run fast and do the things the iPad doesn’t i.e. flash support, which although now a minor point is still an annoyance with the iPad.
The second factor is Price, if these devices come out at a higher price than the basic iPad, Microsoft may as well pack up and go home. The average man in the street knows what an iPad is and if asked to choose between them, there’s every possibility he’d go for the cheaper item 99 times out of 100.
The third is Apps. We know it’s Windows, so we know the Higher specification Intel device will run all windows applications, but the ARM based Surface RT will not run all the windows apps you’re used to running. This needs to be addressed and quickly. There needs to be software to do what you want to do at launch. There are no second chances in this industry. No apps and the device will fail, if you can’t do the things you want, you’ll go elsewhere.
The forth and possibly most important factor is availability. One red flag for me during the presentation was when they announced they would be available from Microsoft stores and from their online store. If that’s it, they’ve already failed. Does anyone reading this know where there nearest Microsoft Store is? Are there any at all here in the UK? Any ideas where to find that information? A cursory Bing or Google search does not give any pertinent information. If they launch the Surface and we can’t go get one from PC World, Curry’s, Comet, Carphone Warehouse or anywhere else tablets are available, they have no chance at all.
I recently (About 2 months ago) decided to ditch Microsoft products entirely, and now all my computing is either on iPad if I’m consuming content, or on my MacBook Air if I need to work or just want to use a keyboard (Or play Diablo 3). In fact I’m rarely in a room where I don’t have both devices with me. Surface could be the device that, firstly negate the need for 2 devices. Secondly it could get me back into the Microsoft ecosystem, after being somewhat confused by what they are doing with Windows 8.
I can seriously see me replacing my iPad with a surface. Mainly because it’s Windows and I do find myself needing a Windows machine from time to time (Maybe because I’m new to OSX and struggle occasionally.) But I’m also very attracted to the new gadget on the high street, so me buying one is very likely indeed.
BUT, this article is just my opinion, what do the other CoolSmartPhone Contributors & Editors think of Surface?
“For the past 5 years, I have a been a student for 4 of those in Kent and then finally managed to find employment 3 months ago. As such I have never had the money to spend on a tablet, although I desperately wanted one! During this time tablets have risen in popularity and three generations of iPad have passed me by.
In my new job though one of my responsibilities is ‘Social Marketing’ and the visibility of the company, as such I have to keep up with Social Networks and been given an iPad to do so on. Previously I had convinced myself I didn’t need a tablet, this time with the iPad has proven me wrong. So now with Surface coming along, I think Microsoft already have my money!
It feels like Apple has opened up the world to tablets and Microsoft is now capitalising on that by dropping in with a tablet like the iPad but takes the functionality further! The one thing holding me back from buying my own iPad is that I wish it would go further with the OS, it really does feel like a large iPhone and I don’t want that. Windows 8 on a device the same size perfectly solves my problem, the more fully featured OS but with the Metro UI still offers the accessibility of a phone, it’s just extending the productivity. I believe that the Surface tablet will be a success as long as they hit the same price point or less than the iPad, that’s the vital statistic.”
“IMO this is just going to appeal to the enterprise market because people that are already invested with a tablet are not going to throw all the applications they have bought in the Apple store or the Google Play store and get a whole new set of apps in Windows 8. Microsoft is late to the game with a lot of catching up to do and I can’t see this tablet getting the attention it will need from developers to invest into it; that place is owned by Apple’s iPad, a position which I don’t think is going to change for a long time yet.
This coming from someone that is getting the next Nexus tablet, whatever that may be, why not the iPad? Because I don’t have a ton of apps bought for the iPad and I hate iTunes and I don’t have a Mac ;)”
“The Surface will be a success. However, whether it will be a game changer depends on two major factors: price and battery life. From my experience in design and manufacture, ballpark figures would have been set for these two factors at an early stage, so the question is – what is Microsoft’s target market? At an iPad price point it will be a huge success. It will give the Transformer Pads a lot to think about; squashing the premium non-keyboard Android tablets and eating their chunk of the iPad market as they go… IF the battery life is seven hours or more. At an ultra book price point the Surface will be a serious contender, giving better functionality and style than anything on the market, and long battery life won’t be so much of an issue.”
“I think that for me it comes down to apps. If Microsoft can throw their considerable weight behind developers and launch the surface with a substantial and impressive app catalogue then it has a great chance. For me Android tablets still lack a great app collection and this is the single biggest factor as to why their sales stutter.”
“Personally I’m glad Microsoft have grabbed the bull by the horns and produced their own tablet. Whilst it has the potential of upsetting hardware manfacturers, I’m keen to see of Microsoft emulates this approach with their Windows Phone handsets. A lot has been said about the troubled times at Nokia, so it’s not crazy to imagine Microsoft buying up Nokia and offering up their own-branded Windows Phone 7 devices.
That said, I have to wonder about how strong the Microsoft brand is. Although the new Windows 8 UI and Office integration is an attraction, I’d like to see how many people choose to buy the Surface instead of the iPad. Time will tell…”
“I think the Surface will sell relatively well. It’s an attractive device with a powerful and touch optimised OS. But, I think the bigger story here is that a full operating system is running on a tablet! This means that both the main mobile operating systems (Android and iOS) may have to reconsider slightly and build in more native functionality to compete with Windows 8. As it stands I would swap my Sony tablet S for a Surface in an instant, because I think tablets with greater productivity options are the future and it is certainly more appealing to me!”
“The success of Surface will depend largely on its pricing, but my bet is Microsoft will get that badly wrong, and so it will fail. We have seen with the Windows Phones that Microsoft believe they can charge extra for a premium product that they just don’t have – charging more doesn’t make it quality.
Samsung, Motorola etc all learned very quickly that not only did they have to beat the iPad on features/quality, but on price. Apple’s iPad pricing took the industry by surprise, in terms of being value for money and all subsequent manufacturers have struggled to learn from it.
My bet is that the ARM versions will fail to sell at all, but the Intel ones will be picked up to by businesses with excess budget, so they will sell a few there.
On the whole though, I think it will be another “Kin” type disaster for Microsoft, which is a shame, as a metro style tablet could be great. “
“I think the success of Surface will hinge on 4 things and worryingly Microsoft neglected to announce 3 of them. The Surface (RT version) needs to match, if not beat the iPad on Battery and Price. Microsoft really needs to get developers on board because Android tablets have been around for approximately 18 months and still haven’t gotten many great apps compared to the iPad, which has 220,000 native apps. Lastly, they need to get this out in time for Christmas. Not just for the holiday shopping but because they’ve pretty much just given a reference design to all of the OEM’s they are about to compete with.”
“I don’t actually think that MS are worried about whether or Surface will be a success, at least in terms of sales. The Surface looks to me like the Redmond equivalent of a Nexus device: a product to show everyone else how to do it right. From the pictures and videos I’ve seen it seems like they’ve really nailed the hardware. It looks fantastic and extra touches likes the kick stand and keyboard covers are very classy.
I get the impression that the Surface is meant to get OEMs interested in the potential of Windows RT for tablets and show them how to play to the OS’s particular strengths, rather than just producing another anonymous device. The keyboard cover in particular will help to take advantage of the fact that the Surface is far more capable than other tablets, with full PC functionality. MS have managed to show everyone how it’s done while at the same time catching the public imagination and whetting the appetites of gadget lovers everywhere.
But I think the real question is can Windows RT be a success? I don’t think that MS are too late to the party but I do think that it all depends on the dev support that they can attract. I’m practically an Android fanboy, I’m on my 8th Android phone but I wouldn’t even think of swapping my iPad 2 for a Transformer Prime. The reason: apps. Or to be more specific, the lack of apps that play nicely on tablets as well as mobiles. It’s hard to argue that Android isn’t an unqualified success, MS can only dream of Windows Phone doing as well. And yet with all the developer support that Android has, the app situation for Android tablets is abysmal.
Can MS do any better with an unproven platform that’s starting from scratch? Everything I’ve ever read tells me that MS are always good to their developers. But short of throwing money at the problem, a tactic they’ve used for Windows Phone, can they launch Windows RT with a strong collection of top tier apps and keep the library growing at the pace it needs to in order to compete?
And I don’t think that the thousands of legacy desktop applications count. Most consumers won’t be buying a Surface to run Office, they’re going to want Metro apps, designed from the ground up for touch and full screen use. Legacy may be a massive win for the Enterprise but MS already has that market sewn up and is without a doubt trying to make a consumer play with Surface.
Finally. I think that price will play a key factor. Like it or not, Apple is the premium player in the market. It’s the product that people aspire to, and I think it will be a struggle to sell Windows tablets for the same price as the iPad, regardless of whether or not they’re better devices. There’s a reason that Windows laptops normally sell for £300-£600, while the £800+ market is pretty much wrapped up by Apple.
And then there’s the likely spanner in the works that is the much rumoured $199 Nexus tablet. If Google can actually get a Tegra 3 powered device onto shelves for such a bargain price, Windows tablets could suddenly find themselves between a rock and a very hard place, with the high end and low end dominated by its rivals.”
Thank to all the above Contributors for their input!
Well that’s what we think? What do you think?