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Friday, June 22, 2012

Thinking about the "Surface"

Earlier this week Microsoft held a super-secret-event in which they unveiled the new Surface. This is no longer the tabletop touch screen that was revealed earlier but a highly portable Ultra-book / Tablet computer. The event's presentation explained, in limited detail, two iterations of the product: Surface for Windows RT & Surface for Windows 8 Pro. This is a break though product for Microsoft, though not for the reason you might expect.

Hardware and Software Hand-in-Hand

Microsoft's flagship product is software, both the Office Suite and the Windows operating system. They also have an abundant hardware business model as well, producing peripherals such as keyboards and mice, and the very popular line of Xbox products. The Surface is where the merge of these to focuses come together. This is the strongest point in the Surface; the fact that the hardware is built for the software and vice-versa. 

This hardware/software relationship has been modeled by Apple for years. Commonly referred to as a "walled-garden" or "closed-ecosystem" it ensures consistent stability and optimization. Microsoft historically has used the OEMs for hardware production; with Surface, they are now in direct competition with they main software licensees. It will be interesting to watch how this new business approach plays out once the Surface comes to market.

Surface Without Depth

While it is high time that Microsoft brings something of value to market, the presentation was disappointingly low on details. While all the dimensions and set-aparts were touched on, the important details were ignored. 

The display, while described as HD and Full-HD with mention of eyes not distinguishing pixels (sound familiar) was never clarified with a pixel density.

The product pricing was almost forgotten and only stated as "competitive."

The product release was mentioned often enough but only on a surface level (pun intended); "... will all be available on launch day." Thanks Tips, it is only fair to assume we can buy you product on launch day but is that next week or next year!?

The Surface for...

The naming of technology products is a difficult place to be (remember the feminine product joke with the release of the iPad?). Simple is the best way to go; it becomes memorable and creates ease of conversation. Case in point, try comparing all your favorite Android devices without stumbling and stammering over names.

Microsoft failed at the names for the new Surface product line. Since it is Microsoft hardware, there is no need in the name to specify that it is "....For Window...". The name approach should have been Surface RT & Surface Pro. Easy and clean. Instead we get "Surface for Windows RT" and "Surface for Windows 8 Pro

(Courtesy @isaach)


Microsoft designs an upside-down laptop and calls it "New". This graphic explains it all:

What are your thoughts on the Surface? Is it a worthy opponent for the competition? Leave your thoughts below.

Update 06/26/12: Upon further reading about the Surface product launch, this product might not be as polished as presented. According to, the post-presentation "hands-on" was very limited in what could actually be handled. Included on the "no-touch" list was the TouchCover keyboard. Being as this is a key feature and new tech, the fact that these were display only raises large red flags; makes one wonder how much product development remains for the "within the year" launch.

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