Why Microsoft's Surface needs to beat the iPad

Why Microsoft's Surface needs to beat the iPad

Microsoft has now officially announced the Surface -- more specifically the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT and the Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro. The difference in branding between Apple's disyllabic iPad and Microsoft's mouthful of a brand highlights the almost diametrically opposed philosophies behind the two approaches as well.

iPad is singular and mobile native. Surface is bifurcated and seeks to bridge the divide between mobile immigrant and native. iPad is the epitome of Steve Jobs' obsession to simplify and democratize computing, desperate to dent the universe and drag the mainstream into the future. Surface is the epitome of Steve Ballmer's obsession with Windows, a Microsoft wounded and waylaid by anti-trust desperate to maintain some of their desktop relevance in the age of internet and interconnected devices.

Apple mainstreamed the command-line interface with the Apple II, but Microsoft was right there with DOS. Apple mainstreamed the graphical interface but Microsoft stole the show with Windows and Office. Apple revolutionized digital music and the MP3 player with iTunes and the iPod, and Microsoft crashed and burned with Windows Media and PlaysForSure, tried again with the inspired but insufficient Zune, and crashed again. Apple ignored the home console while Nintendo and Sony made fortunes in the living room, but Microsoft pushed ahead with Xbox, leapt forward with Xbox 360, and willed their way past red-rings and incumbents and into the huge success. (Apple later tested the waters with Apple TV and AirPlay.) Apple ignored the search engine while Google indexed and monetized us down to our last datum, but Microsoft broke open the bank to get into that game, and remains at the edge of the field with Bing. Apple revolutionized the smartphone with iPhone, and Microsoft ignored it to Windows Mobile's detriment, and now struggles still with the adorable but ill-adored Windows Phone. And Apple once again democratized and mainstreamed computing even further with the iPad, after Microsoft failed for a decade with Tablet PC, and then failed to respond for years more.

A fighter who doesn't lose is unbeatable. Until he does. Ask Tyson. Ask Fedor. Ask Apple in the 1990s. Winning and losing are habitual. Momentum matters. To lose repeatedly, even when you won everything in the past -- especially when you won everything in the past -- hurts the soul. And comebacks are hard.

Re-invention is tough for businesses. Even in the rapidly moving technology space. Especially in the rapidly moving technology space.

Microsoft bet big on Windows, and with muscle and resolve they won what was up until now the biggest prize in technological history. But they lost badly on the internet. They've been bloodied in media, though the fight is far from over. And their mobile strategy has seen them ground-and-pounded through a mess of partnerships, Kins, and new partnerships.

Now they have Surface. And now they have to win.

That's not hyperbole. Sure, technically they have a huge legacy install base and plenty of money, but so did IBM in their time. And the company before IBM, whose name I no longer remember.

This isn't simply a fight for install base or money. It's not a fight for the future. It's a fight to be the future. A fight to matter.

Apple currently enjoys the type of success normally only attained by oligopolies in control of limited fossil fuel resources. Google has replaced Microsoft as the giant of the tech industry under whose feet other companies fear to stumble. Facebook may be the social network, or just the latest in a series of them, but their mindshare is growing as fast as their user base did. And Amazon is coming, especially once they make a serious international play.

There's no better sign of just how critical mobile is to Microsoft and Steve Ballmer than their willingness to make their own hardware. Mice and keyboard slides aside, Microsoft is a platform company. Their preference is to make powerful, hugely profitable software for a variety of commodity hardware partners.

They only made the Xbox and Zune because the content market couldn't be won by partnerships alone.

Tablet PC was abysmal. Windows 7 was a traditional desktop operating system, bound to hot, power-hungry Intel chips, with "finger friendliness" bolted on. Windows Phone was refreshing, and "authentically digital" but artificially constrained to tiny screens.

Microsoft's partners have been waiting for something competitive with the iPad. Enterprise hasn't even waited -- they've bought iPads.

All of that is on Microsoft and Steve Ballmer. Even though Apple telegraphed the iPad over 5 years ago with the advent of the iPhone, they didn't take either seriously. But their customers certainly did.

To embrace and extend Steve Jobs' metaphor, Microsoft is about to become just another truck company in a car-centric world, and they know it. Windows 8, and to a large extent, the Surface, is their play to stay relevant. To be the cross-over. The minivan. The SUV.

And it's a daring play. Consumers have thus far overwhelmingly voted on the iPad. With their wallets. They haven't wanted anything more complex. They've actively avoided it. HP failed. RIM failed. Google is failing in tablets.

To the tens of millions of consumers for whom traditional computers have always been intimidating and inaccessible, the iPad has been just the focus and simplicity they've been looking for.

Enterprises, meanwhile, have gone BYOD (bring your own device), testing and deploying iPads faster than just about any technology in history. Usability finally found a way to beat checkboxes on the IT buy list, and there's no going back.

And yet Microsoft is hoping they can get consumers and enterprise to make a different compromise.

No one, not Microsoft, not Apple, not Google can be all things to all users with all software on all devices. Every choice has a cost. Every decision is a compromise. And mobile is an extremely harsh environment. Microsoft is hoping users will compromise on the focus and simplicity of the iPhone for the flexibility and functionality of Windows 8 and Surface, and that's anything but a sure bet.

In fact, the Windows 8 mobile strategy is Microsoft's and Steve Ballmer's biggest gamble ever. If they lose, Ballmer may not be at the helm much longer, and Microsoft might have to console themselves to fortune absent relevance.

There's no better sign of that than Microsoft's rush to show the Surface off in between Apple's WWDC 2012 and Google I/O 2012, before they even had pricing or availability, before they even offered screen resolution for their Pro model, or battery life for either. Before they could even take pre-orders. Before their partners could start marketing their hardware. And to be clear, until Surface ships it's not an iPad competitor, an ultrabook competitor, or even a PlayBook competitor. It's a promo video.

Once that'We can quibble about what will define a win here for Microsoft -- what metrics and markets will be used as the measure. But that win has to be there. It's getting towards the last round, and they're all out of rope-a-dope.

There'll always be a place for not-Apple. We need not-Apple. And Microsoft can always keep trying with Windows 9 and beyond. But if Surface and Windows 8 fail, it might not matter anymore. Not for Microsoft.

More: WPCentral

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Rene Ritchie

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

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Why Microsoft's Surface needs to beat the iPad

76 Comments

Right. Excellent article - if you're not a journalist, but rather an editorializing Apple fanboi.
"...before they even offered screen resolution for their Pro model"
If you actually attended or watched the video of Microsoft's presentation on the Surface (and paid attention), you would know that the project lead actually stated that the Pro has Full HD and he specifically meantioned 1080 resolution. For any modestly-tech-savvy person, that translates to 1920x1080 for the Surface Pro.
"Google is failing in tablets."
Really? This article in the LA Times says that iPad market share is dropping and Android tablet marketshare rose to 39% in Q4 2011. Maybe an actual journalist somewhere will report newer actual sales statistics, instead of spouting opinions as facts.
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2012/01/ipad-tablet-sales-and...

I'm pretty sure that are a lot of people who are Apple fans who would still rather have the truth in their ear than smoke up their behind.

Excellent point. I am sure you will be ignored or attacked for telling truth. If Google is failed in tablet market after capturing 39% market share, then Apple also failed in mobile market. Guess what they have only about 30% market share. But don't expect unbiased articles on this site. Mobile Nation has other fan sites but none of them can match imore in reporting distortion.

-- "Android tablet marketshare rose to 39% in Q4 2011"
Market share is the percentage of tablets shipped in a quarter. No one ever knows how many actually go home with consumers.
I find it odd that they rarely share sales numbers of tablets... since they're always quick to point out how many phones they sell.
It's funny... just one month after that LA Times article... here comes Samsung with a shocking announcement:
"We're not doing very well in the tablet market" - Samsung, February 2012
And they're supposed to be one of the biggest Android tablet manufacturers... right?

The issue with "Stuart's" analysis is that he forgets to mention the Kindle Fire - a forked Android tablet - is by far the most successful one. Take the Fire out of the equation and the picture looks more glum. Why do you think Google has to get a $199 7" tablet out at I/O? Simple, if they don't they risk losing all control of the tablet ecosystem in Android.
A lot of it reads out like biased Apple hate coming from the place where Apple hate is greatest, the IT sector.

I provided a link to substantiate my statements. Got any to substantiate your claim about the Fire?
And even if it's accurate, who cares? It doesn't change the fact that Android is certainly not failing at tablets. And since Google still controls Android, Google is not failing at tablets, either.
Further, since Android tablets have not been around nearly as long, and they are making huge strides in taking marketshare from iPads, AND Apple's advancement of tablet technology and mobile OS technology is CLEARLY on the decline (based on the number of people even within the Apple "ecosystem" who are complaining about how the New iPad and iOS 6 both provided minimal real advancements), I think there's a pretty good case for arguing that Google (i.e. Android) is actually WINNING in the tablet market right now.
And as for reading out like hate, please quote something from my post that suggests Apple hate. Hate for fanboi editorializing posing as journalism, yes? Hate for Apple, no.

So many claiming high percentages for Android tablets, I have to wonder where they live? in the Mid West, Iowa? I dunno, I never see them in the wild. The sales figures for Android tablets, as we all know, are more about "shipped" than about "received and never returned". Huge difference.
I dunno I see 6 iOS devices in my wanderings in Seattle for every one non-iOS and that includes Kindle and Xoom and all those ones. I'm sincere now: who is buying all the Android devices? where do they live, demographically and all that?
Just saying.

I am in NYC and I see about 30/70 ratio but based on talk with my friends in India, I believe ratio is better there. So 39% is not hard to believe. World has hundreds of other countries apart from US and thousands of other cities apart from Seattle. I think in couple of years Apple will be around 30% market share in tablet. Remember Android marketplace is still growing and not shrinking. They didn't had good OS for tablet until ICS but things will start changing towards end of this year when Windows tablet along with good Android tablet and may be BBS tablets will be in market.

It was 39% FOR THAT QUARTER. That doesn't mean Android tablets now have 39% of the market in terms of total number of tablets people own. Apple had, what, a year of tablet sales under their belts before there were ANY Android tablets (at least, of consequence) available. Of course iPads are out there in hugely bigger quantities right now! But, if CURRENT SALES are that Android tablets are selling anywhere near as many units as Apple is selling iPads, then that means the overall gap is likely to narrow. And maybe even reverse. Just like Android phones are now outselling iPhones.
And it CERTAINLY puts the lie to the article's statement that Google is failing in the tablet market.

@rosswell.
Could not agree more. I travel the entire East Coast and fly over 100K miles a year. I would say, based on what I see in airports and in the marketplace, more of a 10 to 1 Apple to Android ratio. When I see someone on a devise other than iPad I am always curious to see which device they are on.
And this does not count on the numerous businesses I call on that use iPad for their entire sales staff. Have yet to come across any other device used for this purpose.

I agree, excellent article. Sadly, the tablet market will be short lived. I believe that eventually mobile phones will completely overtake tablets, as the world moves to quick, light, and easy to take with you, the best device is the one you have with you.

Good article, Rene. Agree that "It's a daring play", but: how easy is it to use on your lap while sitting on the couch?

you do realize that you can fold the keyboard cover back, or completely remove it, and the device becomes just as comfortable to use as an iPad, right?
derp.

Interesting analysis. I would say Surface is not a really gamble for MS, because it is really their only logical response. Couple nitpicks:
1) MS, more than Apple, deserves credit for the first wave of democratization. The Apple II was great (and my first computer), but DOS and WIndows opened personal computing to several orders of magnitude more people than did the Apple II, the Lisa, and the Mac combined. The Apple of the 1980s was too focused on profit margin to have the democratizing impact they could have had.
2) Apple did try for the console market, with the ill-fated Pippin in the mid-1990s, during the Playstation/Sega Saturn generation. Never heard of it? That is how badly it flopped.
3) MS losing in the 2000s is bigger than Apple in the 1990s, Fedor, Tyson, and Stanford over USC in 2007 combined. Fairly or not, Ballmer's legacy is cemented as the guy who started with a virtually insurmountable lead, and presided over a series of missteps that allowed others (primarily Apple) to sneak into their market and define entirely new ones.

I should have said Jobs II Apple chose not to compete. I remember the Pippin mostly for the name -- an Apple that didn't know yet how to brand.
Excellent commentary, as usual.

You're spot on with your comment on who democratized the PC market.
Apple made (and makes) proprietary hardware and you can't run their OS on anything else.
Microsoft made (and makes) Operating Systems that you can run on anybody's hardware that you choose, so long as it meets basic specs. THAT is what democratized the PC market.
Apple has (and continues to) try to dictatorize the market, really.

I am in NYC and I see about 30/70 ratio but based on talk with my friends in India, I believe ratio is better there. So 39% is not hard to believe. World has hundreds of other countries apart from US and thousands of other cities apart from Seattle. I think in couple of years Apple will be around 30% market share in tablet. Remember Android marketplace is still growing and not shrinking. They didn't had good OS for tablet until ICS but things will start changing towards end of this year when Windows tablet along with good Android tablet and may be BBS tablets will be in market.

Well written, but it's clear that Mr. Ritchie has been drinking the Jobs Kool-Aid. Microsoft is by no means in trouble. They are extremely relevant in today's world (though it is true, they have many failed ventures). They may not be as "sexy" and "flashy" as Apple, but the business world relies on them heavily.
In May of 2012, the Windows family of OS's accounted for over 80% of connected devices browsing the web (http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_os.asp). Apple has been slowly climbing in usage (up to almost 10%) and will continue to make a push. Personally, I prefer OS X over Windows, but both platforms have their pros and cons.
To say that Microsoft's future relies on Windows 8 and Surface is taking it a step too far, however. Microsoft has a lot of time before their market share is seriously threatened, and by the looks of it, they are poised to make quite a stir in the tablet industry. Only good can come of this, as it ups the ante for Apple and other competitors in the mobile marketplace, which leads to better products for us, the consumers.

MS will not go away overnight, but only because of that 80% market penetration. Other than XBOX, MS has failed to truly innovate in the last 10 - 15 years. They are the defacto business solution, eviscerating Word Perfect, Lotus 123, Novell, etc.
In the early years they had real competition and very immature applications, operating systems and networks to refine. Each new release of their products, whether innovated or stolen, marked significant strides. They capitalized on low cost of entry for devs, unlike the cost of learning RFP on your own AS400, to build on their OS, DB and Office platform. An open system made sense at that point. In the early years of MS there was a huge base of DIY IT staff that learned on the job and MacGyver'd together small and large business solutions on the cheap. There was a palpable excitement about working with MS products then.
The OS, DB and Office model has matured. Rene's point about the impact of the net is quite salient. New solutions with VM, and moving back to dumb terminals for the enterprise with Citrix and other, HTML front ends with DB2 backends, have left MS with no clear competition and direction. 20 years ago usable, reliable options were few....now they diverse, low cost and plentiful.
MS won most everything in the 80's and 90's. They have been coasting since. There are SQL Server and Office bugs (though MS doesn't call them as such) dating back 2, 3, 4 releases ago that they won't address...instead you get the Ribbon menu. They got into the habit of squeezing out "New" and have completely ignored making things work better (try using their Office for Mac software for anything other than casual, grandma depth tasks).
They will not die overnight, but they are fast losing their relevance for both the home and business user that they used to lord over. OSX and iOS don't have all the niche functionality of a Windows system, but they also lack the absurd complexity that stops 90% of users in their tracks at one point or another. And IT, either reluctantly or enthusiastically, is embracing the BYOD model. Add to that things like OpenOffice, Google Docs, etc... and MS's gaze down on their expansive empire is starting to reveal a restlessness at the borders.
MS can make a tablet, they've done it before. But until they start paying attention to details (Jobs-like focus) and stop trying to play me-too, they will continue to see defectors, their stock will be hokum and they will more and more appear to be old school. And Balmer? What a joke....I don't think he is their messiah.

Another great post, Rene. Keep it up!
When Surface is released, it will be drastically behind the curve. There are currently 225,000 third-party apps for iPad. There are zero native third-party Surface apps now. How many will there be on launch day?
And, not that specs are all that important any more, the Surface screen will have barely HDTV resolution. 3rd-gen iPad Retina display beats it easily.
Oh, and let's not forget that Apple will putting Siri on iPad when iOS 6 is rolled out. Siri will be a huge differentiator for iPad in the years to come, Apple knows it, and they'll be relentlessly adding knowledge to it.

"the Surface screen will have barely HDTV resolution. 3rd-gen iPad Retina display beats it easily."
I have noticed a funny thing. I've never heard anybody with a 60" 1080p TV complain that the resolution needs to be higher. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention. I know, for me, 1080P resolution on a 10.6" screen is WAY finer than I can distinguish. For that matter 1920x1200 on my 24" desktop monitor is finer than I can distinguish.
Retina Display is Marketing hype. And a waste of battery life and GPU power. Apple only went that high because they couldn't figure out any way to go higher than what they had on the iPad 2 (and iPhone 4) without just doubling pixel density on both axes.

You're comparing a 1080p screen 60" away where your eye can't resolve pixels to a tablet screen you hold 18" away. I don't think that's a fair comparison, and I know it isn't technically valid. The iPad's PowerVR SGX 543MP4 pushes the 2048x1536 Retina Display very well.
Pixel doubling was the best solution because it was best to not break the hundreds of thousands of apps already coded for 1024x768. If you look at the battery life results and performance metrics, you'll find Apple did just fine.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/5663/analysis-of-the-new-apple-ipad

What it comes down to is a consumer isn't going to know the difference between this and an Ipad. Ipad is nicer on the eyes, better marketing, more apps - going to be a clear winner. Although this product is interesting (tablet / ultrabook merged), it's still Windows with a coat of paint. We going to need Norton AV on this thing? Hello bloatware and malware... blue screen of death anyone? On top of it confuse the user more with the RT vs Pro. RT vs Ipad - Ipad clear winner with eco system, apps, LTE etc. Pro is very interesting but I just don't think it will fly.

I don't think you give todays consumer enough credit. in this particular case everyone knows what an iPad is and everyone if going to know the Surface is NOT an iPad.
This comparison reminds me of my latest visit to the U-Village Apple store in Seattle. I didn't know there was a Microsoft right across the parking lot but I can't say I was surprised to see the Apple store PACKED and the MS store EMPTY.
I think consumers may very well know Apple way better than they know Microsoft these days.

sigh I know this isn't the right audience, but I think some people need to turn it down a notch.
---"What it comes down to is a consumer isn't going to know the difference between this and an Ipad."---
I hope I'm not overestimating people, but only the drastically, debilitatingly stupid won't know the difference.
---"Ipad is nicer on the eyes, better marketing, more apps - going to be a clear winner"---
Your opinion. I think the Surface is nicer on the eyes. Marketing...MS has never been good at that. I can't disagree with you there. Apps...I've found that there are only a handful of apps that are essential to the experience. Those will most likely be there, unless literally 0 developers in the world want to develop for a platform that is liable to sell millions upon millions.
---"Although this product is interesting (tablet / ultrabook merged), it's still Windows with a coat of paint."---
I'm not sure what to make of this comment. Are you saying that Windows 7 is just Windows 3.0 with a new coat of paint? Or OSX is just Apple IIe with a new coat of paint? It's a radical departure - which is a risk, yes - and isn't just a new coat of paint. If you've seen both Windows 7 and 8 you'd notice how starkly different they are.
---"We going to need Norton AV on this thing?"---
No more than any other system. OSX has as many security vulnerabilities as any other software, just a smaller, less attractive user base.
---"Hello bloatware and malware..."---
Two completely different things. Bloatware is from OEMs that have very little profit - the Surface is MS hardware, with no need for bloatware to drive profit. Malware is associated with the above (AV software), and depending on how much Pr0n a user is trying to download it won't be any worse than OSX.
---"blue screen of death anyone?"---
I've been using windows since the early 90's. I haven't had a blue screen in well over 15 years. Not. One. Problem. Is your personal experience different? What have you been doing with your computer?
---"On top of it confuse the user more with the RT vs Pro."---
Once again, I'm hoping I don't overestimate people, but that's like saying "now you're confusing people with a Macbook Air and an iPad! They'll never know the difference!!!!" They're two products, one that is full on tablet, and one that is like an ultrabook, but you have the option of having a similar interface. As easy as that. I /think/ most people have the mental faculties to get that one.
---"RT vs Ipad - Ipad clear winner with eco system, apps, LTE etc. Pro is very interesting but I just don't think it will fly."---
I dunno. I think MS has momentum against them, but if they go at it with the tenacity that they did with the Xbox I think it'll be well received. I've used Windows 8 and honestly, I think it has the freshest, funnest UI out of any of the tablets, iPad included. The Pro is what I have my eyes set on - the capabilities of it are staggering.
I think your opinion is valid, but it's no more weighty than mine and my pocket book.

I think its mostly about user preference and opinion, like with most things. Everyone has different preferences and having more choices is always good for consumers.
"---"blue screen of death anyone?"---
I've been using windows since the early 90's. I haven't had a blue screen in well over 15 years. Not. One. Problem. Is your personal experience different? What have you been doing with your computer?"
haha. had to chime on on this. Reading this reminded me that i have never seen the blue screen of death on my windows computer ever. I had however seen the "grey screen of death" on my mac multiple times, though rarely software related. Most of them comes from a faulty graphics card.

Re: "Windows 7 was a traditional desktop operating system, bound to hot, power-hungry Intel chips, with "finger friendliness" bolted on."
Exactly. And Windows 8 Pro on Surface will be "...a traditional desktop operating system, bound to hot, power-hungry Intel chips, with a 'keyboard-case' magnetically stuck on."
With Perimeter Venting to blow out all that Intel-heated air. What a (sad) joke.

I see it a little differently. First, enterprise is buying iPads, but not in the quantities that they buy computers. Same goes for BYOD, it's there but not in any quantity that makes a dent in Microsoft's quarterly earnings.
The real weakness here is not Microsoft it's their channel partners - HP, Dell, etc. None of them have done anything but a me too version of an Apple product in computers and tablets. Microsoft, in their defense, is showing much more design chops than the whole Win-Tel community which is another way of saying that when the partners do not succeed, then Microsoft fails too.
Clearly, someone at Microsoft gets it and is at least trying. There is a pulse there. The hardware was nice but they need to show innovation in the OS and in the cloud. And the latter cannot be a me too of something that Apple and Google do. They need something their own. They've got the pieces - Zune player, Skype, Bing search/maps, etc. But they need a different point of view that connects the consumer and the enterprise. We'll see if their software is as good as their hardware appears.

You seem to forget that Windows is still a long way ahead of OSX in terms of sales and functionality. So the Surface isn't microsofts last gasp they still completely dominate that market. I still can never see my self getting a mac as I find them disgusting to use. I'm not an apple hater. I have owned many iPods and have an iPhone. I go with what is best in the market
The Surface RT does seems behind the iPad as it relys on apps where as the pro is noes ahead as it can replace a pc by doing all the stuff a laptop can do. An iPad can do about half what my laptop can do.
The pro is just what the tablet market has been waiting for. A fully functional pc/tablet. Not a beefed up smart phone. I believe it should beat the iPad if it is competitively priced

@Jon.....then why not just get a laptop?
When iPad 1 was released it redefined the tablet category. We could go on and on for who invented it. The defining fact is Apple is the reason why it is the category that it is today.
And, ther are very few things I CANNOT do on my iPad that I can do on a laptop. I use Excel, PP, Word, Numbers, Keynote and Pages daily with no qualm without having to lug a five pound piece of laggy, slow garbage around. Swipe, I'm ready to go.
Do you really think MS would have invested in this device had it not been for the huge success of the iPad? Yep, thought so.

Lol what do you do on excel for iPad. Add 2+2??? Please my iPad is really a waste of money. When I need to get reall work done I go to my pc. The pro I have been waiting for since the iPad came out. Bravo Microsoft I will defenetly buy it.

I 100% agree. I use my iPad for casual browsing...that's about it. Every single time I've had to use the iPad for actual work, I quit in frustration.

If I'm not mistake, as per the keynote, the Surface for Win8 Pro will be competitively priced with ultrabooks. It's the Surface for WinRT that will be competitively priced with tablets.
The way I see it the Surface Pro version is really aimed at Enterprise customers and this is where MS will succeed with this version of the tablet. If anything, I truly believe that Surface Pro version really killed any chance that the iPad will have gaining anymore success in the enerprise.
The Surface RT version is aimed more at your everyday consumer and will compete with the iPad. This is the iPad's stranglehold and this is where MS will have a much tougher time winning against the iPad.
All I can say is let the games begin.

Microsoft may have actually picked just the right moment for this. I think people are starting to demand a PC experience on their tablet after a few years of playing around with their tablet toys. The one thing I'm wondering is how close Apple is to bringing their own Mac experience to their iPads (or whether they're staying close to what Steve Jobs wanted which was to stay simple) and not have it in their plans at all.

One thing that Rene forgot about is the back-end. Apple has wrapped up the consumer electronics market for some time to come; but they have failed at every attempt to enter the datacenter. For all of the tablets and computers in the users' hands there has to be something for them to consume. Where does that sit? Sure there are several Unix variations in the datacenter, including multiple Linux distributions, but Microsoft and Windows rule that domain - and they will for some time to come.
That is far from failure.

That's more like infrastructure or utility, like power or plumbing. Arguably they own ActiveSync and Skype and any other number of protocols and transports. But I was arguing relevance and perception.
Microsoft will own the desktop and document space (Office) for a while to come as well.

On the heels of Micro$oft's announcement comes LG announcing they're getting out of the tablet biz "for now" according to 9to5mac. Seems like every tablet since the first iPad gets touted as "the iPad killer", yet none of them has done the deed. Perhaps LG is the wise one here.

I liked this take on minimalmac, that MS's biggest miss was not specifically Vista, or Windows Phone, or bungling the rise of tablets, but that their plan over the last decade allowed a change of perception :
"Microsoft for many years had convinced the world that, in order to get “real work” done, you needed Office...[customers] were as sure as the sun rises that, without Office, they would not be able to work, open attachments, write letters, anything. They had to have it.
Then...,the iPhone came. There was no Office. People got things done. Then the iPad came. There was no Office. People got things done. Android came. People got things done. All of those things that they, just a couple of years ago, were convinced they needed Office to do. They got them done without it. "
I think Rene fully understands that MS is not going to vanish if Surface flops; they have too much cash, are too entrenched, and, let's face it, their software powers an awful lot of modern economies. But Surface -- and its touted "full" flexibility compared to the iPad -- represents their latest, best attempt to recapture that we-need-Microsoft-to-get-work-done perception that propelled them to the heights they once enjoyed. And if it fails, Microsoft will find themselves out a lot of development resources, and fighting as just another player, rather than as a necessary fixture.

That's one reason why MS needs Office for iOS.
But I go back to what made the iphone big. Multitouch. Fun to use. People lined up around blocks for it.
An ipad? The fun experience of an iphone but on a 9.7" slate of glass. Apple gets it. Now it's ultra eye candy in the highest resolution that size screen has ever seen in a consumer product.
It didn't matter if we lost functionality. Computing is fun again. We made things work whether we're using online storage, remote apps, etc. We want to use that fun ipad. People lined up around blocks for it.
Here comes MS again. They get it too or at least part of it. People want fun to use again, not boring Windows associated with work. Here's Metro. Live updating tiles. Multitouch. Thin slates. Cool looking magnetic covers. Oh, but here's Office. And if you can put up with a heavier version, you can have it all. Our fun multitouch tiled Metro AND windows (work) behind it. Use a kb. Have your functionality too.
Only problem here is this. MS has to convince the mainstream that windows is fun to use again. Get the games, cool apps, and demo them off. Tie this to the xbox in anyway possible. If people connect to it, then this alone will renew interest in windows phones. The xbox needed Halo for initial sales. MS needs to find another Halo, be it a feature or hardware, to drive Metro. It will take much more than merely announcing the Surface.

They surely already hinted at the "fun" the Surface is with the immediate crash the instant the presenter wanted to do anything with it.

I have a problem when people keep saying that iOS has "so many thousands of apps". Big deal. How many of those apps are copies of another app? Probably a vast majority. That is not something that will slow down or even keep people from the surface. You have to remember that it is still running the same OS that is on pc's. And that it has both usb and micro-sd. I am sure that MS and many third party companies are going to have ways of either just downloading the program or even going to your local Best Buy, staples, etc and just buying a memory card/stick with their program on it ready to just transfer it onto the surface.
What I am waiting for is for the first complaint/lawsuit that it is a rectangular shape, black, and shiny.

While Its ammusing reading everyone's opinion of why surface is better or worse than the iPad. If you like it buy if not don't. To each their own. I do like the idea of competition.

Awesome article Rene. I can almost hear you monolouging throughout the article. Super focused and relevant, not to mention this is a place where important people watch and your words are heavy as this is not just some random startup blog. I remember when SJ got up on stage and spoke about 2011 being "the year of the copy cats" during the iPad 2 Announcment and it's almost still relevant today. And at the all things D conference with Walt Mossberg he spoke about the future of these types of products being even more radical and faster and feature packed etc and Steve said "time takes care of all that stuff", the surface could be viewed as just a copycat and then again all flat screen tv's are all copying each other as well. But the iPad has more than just originality. It does something more powerful, and is fundamentally easy to use at its core that my 4yr old nephew breezes through apps and content like an adult. It is empowering and powerful. Just ask any power user that has his or her iPad jail broken and see the infinite possiblitys open up as well. 2012 seems like another copy cat year for the iPad and no one is still close to matching the Beauty, resolution and elegance of the new iPad. If a company produces a product that leap frogs what hasalready been done, i will gladly take notice. For now, I'm happy typing this on my 9.7 in retina display.

"no one is still close to matching the Beauty, resolution and elegance of the new iPad."
Well, that is completely subjective (except the resolution part) and debatable. But, the Surface Pro surely does beat the snot out of the iPad when it comes to empowering the user. It brings a full-on desktop OS to a tablet form factor. It provides a usable digitizing stylus technology for doing anything from drawing sketches to taking handwritten notes. And it has a SmartCover that has a built-in keyboard! The iPad may have had more apps than any other tablet. But, when the Surface Pro arrives, it will have more "apps" for it than the iPad does by a LONG shot. And they'll be more feature-rich, and available from anywhere you want to download them from. You won't have to hack your Surface Pro just to be able to run the apps you want.
"If a company produces a product that leap frogs what hasalready been done, i will gladly take notice"
The Surface Pro clearly leapfrogs the iPad. Take notice.

More apps than the iPad. Filed for claim chowder check in the future.
Come on, the Pro is a full blown PC. It may be more appropriate to compare the Surface Pro to the MacBook Air. As far as having a full on desktop OS, that hasn't worked for Microsoft in the tablet space yet. Maybe they finally get it right wih Windows 8, but the Surface Pro is still an Intel product that won't run cool and will probably eat battery. Useful stylus? I haven't seen a truly awesome capacitive stylus yet, but rest assured Apple patents have indicated Apple is doing lots of research in that area. Engadget tried demoing the smart cover. Microsoft would not let them.
The iPad will still be cheaper, but if you need a product competitive with the Pro, a MacBook Air might be a better buy anyway.

"More apps than the iPad. Filed for claim chowder check in the future."
Please do and get back to us. Hmmm.. number of Windows apps in the world versus number of iPad apps... Hmmmm..... LOL!
"It may be more appropriate to compare the Surface Pro to the MacBook Air"
Ultimately, Surface Pro price will determine what to compare it to. Functionality is certainly comparable to a MBA. But, if it's 1/2 or 2/3 the price (say, $300 more than an iPad, for the same amount of storage, but with a keyboard), THAT is what it WILL get compared against.
"Useful stylus? I haven't seen a truly awesome capacitive stylus yet"
Good point. Fortunately, while a capacitive stylus is what you are limited to on an iPad, the Surface Pro provides a digitizing stylus (like the Samsung Galaxy Note, Note 10.1 Tab, HTC JetStream and Flyer, and Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet). A digitizing stylus allows a tablet to actually do real palm rejection. Microsoft's OneNote seems to be generally regarded as the best-in-class application available for taking handwritten notes and keeping them organized. I seem to recall reading that it can do text translation and, thus, support searching of handwritten notes. Nothing else offers that. A tablet that can do solid palm rejection, offers the OneNote functionality, has a 3mm thick keyboard/smartcover and still provides all the other benefits of an iPad-style tablet has the potential to completely own the tablet market amongst professional users.

'xcuse me, but a Windows "app" (program) is not automatically a Surface App, much like an iPhone App isn't automatically an iPad App.
iPad Apps (last figure I know is around 100.000) are SPECIFICALLY optimized to take OPTIMAL use of the screen and usage metaphor of the touch screen.
Try to use 99% of your average Windows software with a touch screen, and try to hit the 16 x 16 pixel icons with your fingertip.
Fact stays: There's currently ZERO Surface Apps.

"the Surface Pro is still an Intel product that won't run cool and will probably eat battery"
And you accused me of posting Apple Hate??

I don't think the surface has to beat the ipad at all. This is a totally different tablet that can do things the ipad simply cannot do. This will be targeting more of the enterprise sector and looking to regain the market back from apple which looks like very well could be the case if this thing performs how they hyped it up to. Apple is falling behind and the fanboys won't admit it, but sooner or later they are going to have to get out of their comfort zone or they really will be left in the dust by the likes of MS and android. And no not just in the tablet space.

This was the perfect story for you to write Renee now people see ur blind devotion to apple because some of the things you say in that article ludicrous lol Microsoft in trouble over 70 percent on Internet connections come from windows based machines an that's fact you can research

I wish Dev wrote articles here instead of any number of writers that are currently employed.
I too would love to see the surface completely blow the doors off the iPad, and solely out of my own greed. I have immense faith in apple for innovation, and it seems to me that since the iPad was released, they have been sitting on their laurels. I cannot see them taking it lying down if the Surface does knock them from the top spot (which I'm sure it won't, but I honestly would love to see it).

I personally feel that people are just afraid of change I think Microsoft did a really good job. why does everyone want an apple anyway realistically speaking every tablet does the same thing. Everything apple just seems so cult like man I love the idea of a new member in the tablet family. I will personally be buying a pro because get this since its a laptop even if developers fist Microsoft with apps its still a full blown laptop and I can still do everything I wanna do. so at the end of the day to each his/her own and enjoy what you wish but don't hinder progress because your satisfied push new tech as far as it can go.

I've seen more than one say MS needs to knock pricing out of the park, deliver on what they announced, and get devs to make apps. One and two are givens.
I agree there needs to be games and fun apps and hopefully xbox integration. But here's the thing. I buy a PC and install the essential apps. Office, photoshop, some work related tax & accounting apps, winrar, VLC, itunes, firefox, etc.
Where's the streaming apps you ask? There are none. I don't install Netflix for example. I use a browser, firefox. I don't need an amazon app. I use a browser. I don't need banking apps. I use the browser.
So for a windows tablet, why would i want 200 apps cluttering up screens to do simple tasks that I can do in a browser? On an iphone you need the apps because the browser is limited, very limited. I do believe however windows RT has a desktop level browser built in with flash (and basically MS and only MS can provide desktop apps like IE and Office in RT). While windows 8 Pro is the windows we know with Metro.
If this is the case, Windows RT already can do much more than an ipad. And when people cry MS needs devs, and that's true, it's not as crucial as saying webOS needed dev support for example. WebOS didn't exactly have a desktop browser built in.
Apple has, over time, created this perception that we need hundreds of thousands of limited apps to choose from. I'd go nuts if i had to choose a different app each time on my desktop to perform a task instead of just using Firefox. It'd be great if i didn't have to manage hundreds of apps on a tablet to do what the browser should be able to do.

For those ignorant people saying that Apple has 'more apps', WELL the Pro version will have FULL WINDOWS 8 SUPPORT. That means, I can run anything from Photoshop to Crysis. Because the system is essentially 'open', you can just go to Netflix.com to view movies. No apps are necessarily needed. READ THE FULL DOCUMENTS, sheesh.

If success of the iPad is anything like the iPhone, it will have less to do with the number of apps or capabilities than the experience.
When the iPhone came out people went on rants about how thier win mobile or blackberry did everything the iPhone did. I had all these devices and the iPhone was the only device I LIKED to use the browser on.
Just because a device has the same or better specs doesn't mean it provides an experience users want.
Personally, I never want to have to use a stylus again!
Personally, I don't want to have to look across hundreds or marketplaces or websites to find the app I am looking for. I want one or few stop shopping for apps.
I don't care if my device is more limited if it give me the experience I am looking for. I believe that I have to sometimes forgo options for experience and that, above all else is what I think Apple has done the best at.

I mean let's be realistic. There is no doubt that the surface is a cool, powerful and relevant product. It's basically a touchscreen laptop with a decent i/o and a well thought out keyboard. Believe me, I watched the keynote and was totally impressed with some of the presentation and execution from the hardware team at Redmond. They have definitely come up with a thin multitouch pc with a great infrastructure. That being said, apple dropped the iPad in 2010 before anyone knew what was going on. Every iteration since then has set a new standard that the other manufacturers have been scrambling to even match much less innovate on. The ecosystem backing the iPad is concise and specific , not just another pc application running on whatever hardware they happen to allow it on. I do believe Microsoft just set the bar for other oems to start coming up with much higher quality and robust products to keep up with them or even one up. But they still could have fragmentation issues depending on how other oems implement their hardware. I will reserve final judgement once I put my hands on one though.

Excellent blog here! Also your web site a lot up very fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link for your host? I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

I don't think the claim that Microsoft has nowhere to go if Surface fails has been supported by any evidence.