Microsoft Surface Shames Partners in Best Possible Way

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 Microsoft Surface Tablet puts partners on notice

You could be mistaken for believing that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was channeling the spirit of Steve Jobs during the launch event of Microsoft's new Surface tablets. Tell me if you think this sounds familiar:

"We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when hardware and software are considered together."

It's a page ripped right out of the Apple playbook, and I don't blame Microsoft for taking matters into its own hands. In fact, Microsoft's self-made tablets look like the best thing to happen to the PC industry in a long time. Nevermind the fact that Microsoft is competing with its own partners. The company just helped them by putting them on notice.

Microsoft Surface is the iPad ProLeading up to the launch of Windows 8, I've seen a lot of laptop-tablet hybrid designs that attempt to marry the two classes of products. Some are Ultrabooks with touch capability while others are slates that detach from a dock. But the Surface is the first hybrid that feels like a fully integrated and holistic solution. The premium magnesium design screams “high-quality,” while the sturdy kickstand that folds out from the device is ideal for entertainment and typing.

Which brings us to the Touch Cover. It's an ingenious accessory that attaches to the device magnetically but does Apple's Smart Cover one better by building in a ultrathin, pressure-sensitive keyboard and touchpad. Add in Office 15 and you have the Microsoft equivalent of the iPad Pro.

The Surface will come in two flavors, one powered by an Nvidia ARM processor running Windows RT and another with an Intel CPU running Windows 8 Pro. The former product looks like it has more potential for success because it’s lighter (1.5 versus 2 pounds) and will be cheaper. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro looks more like an enterprise play, with the distinct advantage of supporting Microsoft’s huge library of desktop apps.

Nevertheless, both Surface tablets seem to cater more to mobile professionals than everyday consumers. But to me, that’s a smart move. I’ve yet to use the iPad for work on a regular basis because it simply doesn’t do enough for me as a productivity machine. There’s a real opening here for Microsoft.

The Surface launch event left a lot of questions unanswered. We don’t know the exact resolutions of the screens, just a vague ClearType HD for the ARM tablet and Full HD for the Intel one. And we don’t know the rated battery life of either product. Most important, Microsoft hasn’t yet provided details on pricing, although the company does say the Surface for Windows RT will be priced competitively with other ARM-based Windows 8 (we’re guessing $500 to $600) slates and that the Surface for Windows 8 Pro will have a similar cost to an Ultrabook (probably about $1,000).

Microsoft shouldn’t be the least bit skittish about going head to head with its Windows 8 licensees. It should be proud of the Surface’s sexy industrial design and for forcefully rebutting Apple CEO Tim Cook's claim that putting PCs and tablets together is like mashing together refrigerators and toasters. If Microsoft’s partners are wise, they’ll turn that jealousy into inspiration — or just get out of the way.

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on twitter.

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
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  • Jake Says:

    FYI: On your front page, when this article is the one in the large area, the title reads "Microsoft Surface Table Shames PC Parnters". Doesn't happen when it is in the little row of four articles though. You might want to fix the typo.

  • Samir Shah Says:


  • Eric Matthews Says:

    Now wait just a damn minute. Microsoft partners were waiting for Microsoft to formulate something of response. Without the right software, there is only so much that the hardware makers can do - Windows 7 isn't capable of doing the things that the iPad can. But now, Windows 8 is not even RTM, and its the hardware partners that are keeping Microsoft from competing with Apple. What a crock of $#!^ - I have never seen a bigger attempt to misdirect blame in my entire life.

    First off, Windows 8 is a hastily prepared response to the iPad, and not a grand vision for the future of mobile computing. The Metro (Playskool) UI has no real history of success, and was clumsily grafted onto the Windows experience - ruining the desktop experience for the rest of us.

    Secondly, the only thing about Surface that people like is the keyboard cover. But, if you are going to carry a keyboard with your tablet, you really need to consider an ultra-book or MacBook Air. These devices are nearly as portable, way more powerful, and more usable today than Microsoft's virgin tablet may ever be. Plus, it can be used on your lap, something Microsoft's silly-ass kickstand tablet can't do - you need a whole table or desk to make it work. That's not mobile!

    Finally, Microsoft doesn't exactly have a great history when it comes to hardware. The XBox 360 was the most disastrous hardware launch in tech history. Then, after more than a Billion dollars spent to fix the problem, never managed to sell the 100+ million units of the Nintendo Wii. And the fanboys never seem to remember all the DS units that Nintendo moved in the same time frame. Clearly, Microsoft didn't win the last round in the console wars, they were second place.

    Sorry, But I'm just not buying the argument that the "Apple" problem is the fault of Microsoft's hardware partners. Microsoft is solely to blame for the situation they find themselves in today. And, once the novelty of these new Surface tablets wanes, people will see these things for what they truly are - filmy netbooks running the awkward Windows 8 operating system.

  • kimck99 Says:

    Very nice blog. Since the announcement yesterday, I've read quite a few blogs/articles but they all seem to have a biased position on how this will be too expensive to compete with iPad, don't have ecosystem - essentially, they have a personal hatred or arrogance to something that is not an Apple product. Frankly, tired of reading such blogs.

    I appreciate your post as it the information with much less bias or dogmatic opinion of "this isn't an Apple product so it will suck" attitude.

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