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Microsoft’s big event in Hollywood yesterday centred around the unveiling of their touted “iPad killer” and initial thoughts appear to be mixed. I said in a previous article that it could be great. So is it?
The Surface will ship in two versions, one with Windows RT for the consumer market which will run Metro and apps and all that and a Pro version, running Windows 8, MicrosftOffice and genuine software, not just apps.
Your initial look at Surface certainly leaves the right impression. The screen is lovely, Windows 8 (or Windows RT for the consumer market) does look nice, though we have no knowledge of how it actually works yet and the squarer, more blocky look is very reminiscent of Microsoft / PC hardware. That’s not usually a good thing, but in this form it kind of works. And it’s pretty much the same thickness as the new iPad.
The body is made up of Vapor MG, Microsoft’s own trademarked magnesium alloy. It looks study, it looks durable, it looks ever so slightly futuristic in a way the iPad does not. So far so good.
Then we come to the cover. Apple’s Smart Cover is an overpriced piece of tat in this writer’s opinion. The Microsoft Surface cover comes with it. It has to…it’s a keyboard. It has, according to TechCrunch, a rubbery feel, though the keys don’t compress, and comes in several different colours for a bit of personalisation. This is my biggest beef with this so-called tablet.
The iPad was revolutionary in part because you didn’t need a keyboard. Not having a keyboard is what defines a tablet. So why does Surface ship with one (if it does when it launches)? What is the point of the touchscreen if you’re going to throw a keyboard in the mix? A stylus is bad, a mouse is worse, but a keyboard is just plain ridiculous when you’re developing a tablet. In fact, it goes right back to the headline of this article. It’s NOT a tablet, it’s a touchscreen laptop.
That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Not at all. It does, for sure, mean this is not an “iPad killer” but it also means there’s now a new(ish) product on the market that fills a niche. A super-light, super-portable touchscreen COMPUTER. Developers, programmers and journalists will love the ARM-powered Pro version, I have no doubt. And for everyone else, there’s the Intel-powered version.
In true Microsoft fashion they have managed to take an ok looking product and utterly ruin it, however. The back panel flips out to act as a stand and oh my God does it look awful. Like a cheap photo frame, completely destroying the sleek and futuristic look the Surface had. Of course, it needs it…because of the damn keyboard!
Overall, spec-wise the Surface is powerful and will prove to be popular with a core of people. What it will fail to do is have the mass consumer appeal of the iPad and will therefore, I think, be viewed as a flop in 12 months time. This is a shame as what Microsoft have done here is something revolutionary. They’ve created something that didn’t exist before and have done so (back panel stand aside) in a very good looking way. It will be used, it will find its market and it will gain a fanbase too.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll see too many people sat in coffee shops reading the morning paper on one though. “iPad killer”? No. “Tablet”. No. Just…something else…