Is it a Tablet? Is it a Netbook? No, it’s a Surface

Ah, Microsoft. Last to the music revolution party with the fateful Zune, and now last to the tablet party once again with Surface, Redmond’s reply to the post-PC computing revolution.

As it was aptly captured by bloggers in the wake of the Microsoft special event on Monday evening, the software giant has struggled to find its place in this new world where the personal computer is no longer dominant, and devices such as the iPad are becoming more and more relevant for most users’ computing needs.

From what I’ve seen, Surface is a bit of a confused gadget. Microsoft touts it as a tablet computer, however, there are a few glaring things that detract from this description:

  • One of the two Surface models (the high-end version) runs a full-version of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8. It runs the desktop version. Now, whilst Windows 8 has been designed with tablet computers firmly in mind, the inclusion of the desktop version makes the Surface sound more like a netbook or laptop, instead of a tablet computer. Apple’s tablet offering, the iPad, by contrast runs a specific operating system, iOS, designed to integrate firmly with the app-centric model of Apple’s touch-devices. There’s clearly more focus from Cupertino then there seems to be from Microsoft.
  • Microsoft made a big deal during their presentation about the tack-on soft keyboard, which they call the Touch Cover. They claim (in an obvious quip at Apple’s iPad) that typing on this cover is “twice as efficient as typing on glass.” However, tablet computers are, traditionally, full-screen touch-based computers, with no reliance on a keyboard. If you need a keyboard, you’re better-off with a proper netbook, ultrabook or laptop. Furthermore, whilst the Touch Cover doubles as both a keyboard and a magnetic latch-on cover to protect the magnesium-made device, it’s a clear copy of Apple’s Smart Cover technology made for iPad, and would only work properly (and comfortably) on a flat surface – so forget trying to use it while relaxing on your couch.

Microsoft’s Surface does have one thing going for it, though: beautiful design. Finally, Redmond has adopted a good sense of design, and the tablet does indeed look good. However, without any word about its pricing, definitive release date, and availability, it’s difficult to say more about the device. If they can successfully market it, Surface could pose as a formidable contender for iPad’s throne of dominance in the post-PC era, but given that Apple literally created the post-PC with iPad, that’s certainly going to be a tough challenge for Redmond to take on.

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2 thoughts on “Is it a Tablet? Is it a Netbook? No, it’s a Surface

  1. The Surface is definitely Microsoft’s all-in bet with Windows 8. They know it’s a huge departure from the Windows of old, so they want to spread the word as vigorously as they can.

    On the desktop/laptop side, it’s a question if a tablet-designed UI can work harmoniously with a keyboard and mouse. On the tablet side, it’s a question if an OS can run on it and get tablet-quality battery life and performance.

    As usual with Microsoft, their big reveals have more questions than answers.

    1. I agree with your thoughts. For now, it’s a waiting game as we watch the drama unfold before the big launch of Windows 8. From what I’ve read recently, it seems like Microsoft has really insulted some of their key OEMs with the Surface; however, the Surface is also their vehicle to show to the general public the proper capabilities of Windows 8 without the usual hitches that occur when third-party hardware is fused with their own software (as has been the case in the past).

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