Tim Cook says Microsoft Surface is compromised, confusing

Tim Cook says Microsoft Surface is compromised, confusing

During Apple's Q4 2012 conference call today, when asked about Microsoft's new Surface tablet, Tim Cook said he hadn't had a chance to play with one yet, but based on everything he'd read, he found it to be compromised and confusing.

Cook went on to say that one of the toughest things to do when designing a product was making hard tradeoffs and deciding what a product should be. He said that's what Apple had done with the iPad, and what made the iPad user experience incredible.

While not exactly citing Home Simpson's car, Cook did liken Microsoft's Surface to making a car that could also fly and float, but not do any one of those things particularly well.

The use of the word "compromised" is interesting, since "no compromises" was Microsoft's buzzword for Windows 8. That translates into two versions of the Surface, one that's releasing now and runs Windows RT for ARM, and one that's being released early next year and runs Windows 8 Pro on Intel. It also translates into two modes, the Metro/Modern/Windows 8-style of higher-level apps, which is more like iOS, and the full-on Windows mode, which is more like traditional Windows, of course. It also comes with two versions of Internet Explorer, one for Metro and one for Windows. They also have two kinds of keyboard-covers, one that's multitouch and one that has physical keys. And the bifurcation goes on and on.

Optimistically, it can be viewed as Microsoft trying to best serve the needs of both new, iPad-generation users and old, Windows-generation users both, and transition the latter towards the former. Pessimistically, it can be viewed as Microsoft failing to make any choices of their own, and offloading all those choices to the users.

Pragmatically, it can seen as living somewhere in between the iPad and the laptop, the way the iPad mini lives somewhere between the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad.

It's personality is undeniably split, and that will seem compromised and confused to most Apple users, made only worse by the inarticulate way Microsoft has handled their messaging. But it might also be exactly what traditional Windows PC users need to help move them into the post-PC era.

The Surface isn't a product Apple would ever make, but it's also more than the Tablet PCs Microsoft has allowed to be made in the past. So whether or not history ultimately judges it as a misstep, for Microsoft, it remains a step, and that's interesting.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 41 comments. Add yours.

pappy53 says:

And they are going to sell like hotcakes.

okli says:

I kinda had to check twice if I didn't land in WP central by mistake... its just full of REDMOND trolls here... WTF

west3man says:

Saying that the product will sell well makes one a troll?

okli says:

No... but saying that Surface RT will sell like hotcake... makes one a mikrotroll.... DUDE

rexxman says:

The only one 'trolling' this article is you .... DUDE.

If you are offended by talk of Microsoft on iMore than your complaint should be directed to Rene.

okli says:

that would be the case if this would be a positive article on WPcentral... DUDE
but its as U say a : *Microsoft talk on iMore*...ordinary iOS, andrOS and windOS users just stay on their's blogs/sites... only trolls are going to others... that shows that this 5 pounds dancing gorilla is sending out his dogs like U rexx again... to make a good PR for the new product as Mr.$oft has done with Zune, Kin and Lumia 800 in the past... but U're peeing on the wrong tree here... iOS users are too smart for that game... so...
why dontcha try it in the Andro-pit... DUDE... U'll find lots of earth and water down there....... THIS.....IS......iMORE..... !!!...

okli says:

At first blush, Microsoft's entry-level Surface RT tablets seems like a good value compared to the iPad . That's because you get double the storage (32 GB versus 16 GB) for the same price as the iPad, $499. But the reason Microsoft started the Surface at 32 GB instead of 16 GB is because the operating system, Windows RT, takes up approximately 12 GB of space.
For reference, Apple's iPad operating system takes up less than 1 GB. If Microsoft had made the entry-level Surface a 16 GB device, you'd only have about 4 GB free to play around with.

Chase S says:

I think Windows 8 will be great. I enjoy my Apple products, but I think to the average consumer, being able to sell them a ultrabook that converts into a tablet for $1,000 (Asus Transformer Book) is more appealing then making someone purchase an Ipad for $300 and MacBook Pro for $1200+.

I also like the fact that I can transition from a tablet UI (Metro) back to a standard desktop interface. Sure, it'll have a learning curve, but guess what.... so was the iOS and Lion when I first purchased them.

Maybe it's just me, but I enjoy knowing that I'll now be able to take my computer with me as a tablet and turn it into a fully functional PC for my day-to-day use of certain applications. My only concern is that Microsoft is so far behind with apps and the confusion between RT and regular Windows 8.

I also think that while Cook condemns this approach (PC/Tablet hybrid), that Apple too will come up with some way to merge their products to form something similar. Either way, I don't think it'll be a "Flop" as some people put it, but I do think it'll take some time to catch on.

badMojo69 says:

+1

TC got this one wrong.

Know what's more confusing:
the iPhone, iPod, iPod Nano, Mini Ipad2, Ipad4 (no 3), and MacBook...I'm not kidding I have no idea what the point of those tween devices are.

I own two iPads, a windows phone and a android phone I am no ones fanboy. I just love tech.

jonlien2012 says:

Microsoft Surface is doomed. Most businesses and consumers want an iPad.

www.beyondcareersuccess.com

sholokov says:

Ask your network administrator at work what he wants.

darrenlowjq says:

The problem with Apple products is that I no longer feel that visceral need to own their stuff. With the Surface, it was literally like, "ohh I gotta have that!", whereas I have the feeling like "meh, minor upgrade, meh another minor upgrade" with Apple products. I realise that this is because Apple's product lines have matured and they have shifted into the incumbent defending their claimed territory mode, but frankly I expect more from Apple. They are slowly but surely turning into what Microsoft was, a big giant that reacts rather than leads. Hell, I got up bright and early to get my copy of Windows 8 today because its so exciting, and I don't feel like Apple evokes any sort of reaction on a similar scale for me anymore.

Of course I realise that this is from the point of view of a tech geek so it probably not representative of the population as a whole.

RedLine78 says:

+1
I love gadgets and I currently own iPhone 5, iPad 3, Galaxy S3 and Nexus 7. I was hoping to pick up iPad Mini too but after announcement it was disappointing for me. Pricing wise is ok with me but specs not so much. A5 chip with 1024x768 resolution? At least throw in new A6 chip from iPad 4 for that price. My pre-ordered Surface RT and it is coming tomorrow. Very excited to try it out.

darrenlowjq says:

I wish I had the budget to get an RT Surface. Due to budgetary constraints, gotta wait for the Surface Pro in Jan :(

Have fun with your Surface!

okli says:

U mean fun with making this weird Clicky-Dy- Clack sounds with it...?... ait

darrenlowjq says:

The click is important because its indicative of a level of detail to the hardware previously seen not very often outside of Apple products. The fact that there are over 200 custom components within Surface shows how much thought was put into the design process and to dismiss it as a gimmick is shameful if you consider yourself a tech enthusiast. This also shows that Microsoft thought long and hard about the customer experience when designing Surface, and I don't see you bashing Apple for that.

okli says:

is there a tech. function for that Clack sound... ??? than its only understandable if you consider yourself a mikrotech enthusiast... DUDE... indicative of(U mean for) a level of detail to the hardware previously not seen outside of Apple-(at least we could agree on this one)... This also shows that Microsoft thought long and hard about the customer experience when designing Surface....What a lot of fking BS...the per magnet attachments was new and cool 3 years ago, when Apple first introduced it.... now its just a nasty rip off... Im kinda surprised Apple didn't sue M$ for that... I guess its cause Mr.$oft learn the lesson from Samy's Bio$ debacle ... and reach a license deal with Tim

darrenlowjq says:

I sense there's no getting through to you and I'm not going to start a flame war. The touch cover is an interesting evolution of the smart cover idea, nobody is denying that. The cross licensing agreement between Microsoft and Apple may cover that, I do not know. Regardless, I recall that Apple wasn't the first in the tablet market either, should Microsoft have sued the pants off Apple then?

I apologise if you find my taste in consumer electronics personally offensive, but I'm definitely entitled to my opinion. I am not bashing the iPad, it remains a phenomenal product for what it was designed to do, I just think that the Surface makes a better laptop replacement than the iPad does.

okli says:

Uh.... that's how U call a idea theft those days in Redmond : ............ *an interesting evolution *... at least U found a pretty name for it.....DUDE.... Why don't U try that in Ur local bank... than U can tell the police: "that wasn't any bank robbery... it was just *an interesting evolution *of their's cash... I hope that apple execs arn't that fcking stupid to do licensing agreement on it

sholokov says:

You are one of a kind, aren't you. From the language you are using, you are either a teenager named IKnowAll, or someone who still thinks he's in high school. How do you wear your baseball cap? Grow up and grow some balls and let people give their opinion. I owned an iPad and I gave it to my kid sister and replaced it with this unbelievable surface RT.

okli says:

kinda sad for someone who love gadgets to know so little about them... redclown... U should know better why Surface RT is DOA ....Surface PRO might be a consideration if M$oft could fix the poor battery life of a laptop, which they can't... njoy U'r Soreface... DUDE

darrenlowjq says:

There are 2 main problems with the Surface RT, the lack of clarity on its capabilities from Microsoft and the lack of apps. If an educated customer understand what they are buying and that there is no capability to run desktop applications and that there is a lack of apps at present, I don't why they should not get it. I am not a developer, but from what I understand there is ease of developing across all Microsoft platforms simultaneously. It is no stretch of any imagination to think that the Microsoft brand and the Windows Store will attract app developers.

Regarding the Surface Pro, I'm typing this response on an Asus Zenbook as we speak which easily gets me about 7 hours of battery life, which I find perfectly acceptable. I guess it depends on your expectations, but the Mac platform does not have a monopoly on long battery life and I for one will be waiting for the Surface Pro with bated breath. I suspect I will not be alone in doing so.

okli says:

*There are 2 main problems with the Surface RT, the lack of clarity on its capabilities from Microsoft and the lack of apps. If an educated customer understand what they are buying and that there is no capability to run desktop applications and that there is a lack of apps at present, I don't why they should not get it*.... U mean: "Why should he get it!?" DUDE... ait

darrenlowjq says:

Well, I shall not resort to the "because we are curious nerds" argument because that would be able to generically justify any tech purchase. Rather, can you not see any value in having a machine that runs Office and can natively make use of USB peripherals such as printers while being highly portable? I can, and I would be in line for a Surface except there's no Microsoft store in my country. To each their own I guess, if you are happy with what your iPad offers then more power to you.

okli says:

if thats all what U wanna do with it ... then I would say : go for it... DUDE.... U know iOS users expect so much more from a device even from a highly portable one

Nathan Grey says:

After using the beta of Windows 8 I realized that I hated it. While I think it would make a great phone or tablet UI, I don't like live tiles on my computer. I also don't like losing the start button and menu. I liked all of my important settings being in this tiny area.

Personally, I don't at any time in the near future see an end of the "PC era." At least not when it comes to work. It is way faster to use a mouse and keyboard to get things done than it is to use a touch screen and on-screen keyboard.

I may pick up a surface pro next year, but I can't see me buying the one that is out now. I do love the smartcover keyboard though and wish I could get one for my iPad.

FarazRiaz says:

Here is the problem. The iPad offers more of a compromised experience. Anyone, who has an iPad may tell you the limitations are very frustrating. The ‘Surface RT’ may not be able to run legacy apps; but it brings the sense of thrill and excitement. Those ‘Live titles’ are the most innovative thing about the OS. They just sneak up on you and make you smile. The biggest achievement isn’t the ‘Surface’ but the OS. It works well with touch, mouse and keyboard. The whole point of Windows 8 is to bring touch to every form factor. However, Windows 8 isn’t perfect and there are shortcoming but the damn thing is fun to use. It has a soul and therefore it is the most innovative OS ever.
If you are a ‘mac’ user and you like things that are simple like playing ‘Angry birds,’ then it might be confusing. Apple makes very well hardware but the software lacks excitement. It is just too simple and dull. Therefore, even it is simple to use and it has more apps; it is still boring.

fightcrazy says:

I like the new Microsoft tablet slash laptop. Well made, looks great and has good specs. They should sell a ton of them. I. Hope they do, forces companies to always look ahead. Good luck to Microsoft.

cardfan says:

I'm not sure why people are focused on the Surface. There's more impressive stuff coming from MS's partners IMO. To be honest, the Surface looks terrible. Too annoying to be a laptop and just as uncomfortable as a tablet as reviewers pointed out. The version people really claim to want will weigh even more, over 2lbs.

One question I'm still asking is why MS is even bothering with PC hardware? I've not heard a good answer. Raise the bar? That's retarded. Stick to software MS. Make Office available for iOS and android. It's in danger of losing relevance. Support your hardware partners.They make better hardware than you do.

Then there's the performance. ARM chips struggle with windows 8 or RT. Impressive battery life though. You definitely need a x86 tablet which we've had for years. Maybe the new Atom tablet will work. But these compromise on battery life.

Once you find hardware and form factor you can live with, then perhaps it has a chance. I'm impressed with windows 8 (not RT) on a tablet device or even a large multitouch desktop. I'm not impressed with windows 8 on a nontouch device. MS has to get past that as a large part of their billions of users won't be migrating to touch desktops or laptops anytime soon.

I'm still conflicted about continuing as a windows user (i've used windows since day one and nothing but). I NEED windows though for work and other productivity. So it's not as simple to switch to Mac. I'm leaning towards just going with windows 8 but definitely will need new hardware to make it tolerable. But right now it's just easier to stay with windows 7.

GaiusPrimus says:

<<Stick to software MS. Make Office available for iOS and android. It's in danger of losing relevance.>>

Wow.... I don't even know how to respond to this statement.

DM52 says:

Compromised is an interesting choice of words. My personal opinion is that it's less compromised than the iPad, in that the iPad compromises on high level functionality in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator - people who are scared of computers (and as someone who sells the things, there are a lot of people in this category).

On the other hand, the Surface does it's best not to compromise. By having the two models, Microsoft wants to appeal to the iPad market, as well as the traditional laptop/PC market. Each model has a compromise, but combined, they aim to cover every type of user. If anything, the RT does compromise on functionality to compete with the iPad. It's difficult to comment either way on the Pro, as there aren't enough details yet. Battery seems to be the thing people are throwing around commonly, but it's the same capacity as my laptop battery, which lasts me around five hours, but the screen on the Surface is 5in smaller, and lacks a separate graphics card, which should give it some extra time when compared. But I reiterate, it's difficult to say.

To the above comments mentioning the weight - the RT model is listed at 1.5lb, which is 0.04lb heavier than the iPad. Is this a serious complaint? There is more difference between the iPad 2 and current gen iPad than this. Yes, the Pro will weigh more, but it's also not intended to compete in the same regard.

My final comment is to respond to the above point regarding the "bifurcation" of Microsoft's tablet related product line. Let's have a look at the tablet related products that Apple has on the market, available for purchase brand new, right now:
Smart Cover / Smart Cover (Leather) / Smart Case
iPad 4 (or whatever they're calling it now). iPad 2. iPad Mini. In up to six different models and two colours.

Now, the Microsoft tablet line:
This article says there are two kinds of keyboard cases.
We have the RT and the Pro model, in two sizes each.

Microsoft has two kinds of cases. Apple has three.
Microsoft has four tablet models. Apple has 28.

So, could you remind me which company has issues with bifurcation of their tablet product line?

TomW093 says:

Seeing as Tim Cook admits he hasn't used it, I'm gonna take his opinion with a grain of salt.

dloveprod says:

They should have left the desktop off the tablet version, it doesn't look easy to navigate on touch devices. But then again you dont have to use it, it's just there if you want too. I could see surface working for Microsoft until it lost x86 application support. It looks likes regular windows but its not. The metro ui is nice, especially if your into bright colors, last night they were kinda hurting my eyes after I installed 8.

badMojo69 says:

You can change the desktop theme if the default is too high.

sholokov says:

The regular desktop "app" is for the touch cover usage.

Carioca32 says:

So, he didn't use one but was not shy about criticizing. He should have been honest and said "Never used one, no comment".
I don't know what's worse, Cook badmouthing something he never saw, or his uninformed comment turning into news(or a blog post).

Gambit11B says:

Please, Mr. Cook, explain to me what's so 'confusing' about the Surface????

For being the CEO of such an enormous tech company, you would think you could handle a Windows 8 device......my 8 year old has figured it out already.

prlundberg says:

Those are all ridiculous statements by a ridiculously arrogant man. Other than the ecosystem, which if you'll remember didn't start out all that great on the iPad either, the Surface appears to be just as capable and well-built a tablet as the iPad. Plus it adds a lot of flat out excellent features that people want and will actually use. It doesn't measure up as a laptop, but this version isn't meant to. Even then, it's still the best tablet for doing laptop functions on the market. And guess what? A lot of people want that because they currently view tablets as nothing more than toys. Fun and neat, but unecessary.

Granted, the ecosystem is a huge disadvantage. But there's really not much they can do about that at this point. It will take time to grow. The thing that may kill Microsoft is becoming a closed platform with W8 Metro/Modern apps. That just floors me, it's like they completely ignored what made them so successful over the past three decades.

okli says:

its just the reality.... DUDE... U should learn to accept it... down there.... in Redmond

sholokov says:

First they (isheep) will ignore you (any normal human being), then they will ridicule you, then they will fight you....then you win (yey Surface). (Gandhi)