Microsoft Surface Just Made The MacBook Air And The iPad Look Obsolete

Microsoft has guts. It's what you get when you're the underdog. Either that or you curl into an RIM-shaped ball and die. Microsoft is the underdog because no matter how many hundreds of millions of people use its software, the cool and the future belong to Apple. Or belonged, perhaps. After yesterday's Surface event -- assuming they don't fumble the execution -- Gates's children may have found the weapon to stop the heirs of Jobs and turn the tide.

That weapon is Microsoft Surface. And it's beautiful. Beautiful, functional, simple and honest. Surface just bumped the MacBook Air and the iPad to the back seat, and it did so by hewing tightly to everything that Apple's Jonny Ive holds dear, according to the 10 principles of his Jedi design master, Dieter Rams:

Good design principles for both hardware and software

• Good design is innovative Surface uses a new manufacturing process -- VaporMg -- that reduces its weight while keeping it strong. That process also allows for a built-in kickstand that is invisible when using the product in tablet mode. It may seem obvious, but it's innovative and puts it into laptop mode easily. It's the same story when it comes to using the cover as a keyboard -- it has its own design breakthroughs. And with the combination of multitouch and pressure-sensitive pen technology in the Pro model. This is something that you can't find built into any tablet or computer available today.

The software user experience is also innovative. It's not just an evolution of the Palm or a Newton springboard. Metro's live tiles offer information in real time without having to launch apps. It allows for multitasking with split screens. It was created from scratch for touch, but it also works with a physical keyboard and trackpad. Metro is, without a doubt, the most innovative user experience both on Earth and on the USS Enterprise.

• Good design makes a product useful The touchscreen, the case keyboard and the built-in stand, together with the powerful Ivy Bridge brains in the Pro version, make Surface more useful than both tablets and ultrabooks. Surface adapts to your usage at any time, on the sofa or at your desk. In fact, it's the first morphing computer that actually makes sense.

This also extends to the software. The live tiles, the multitasking and Surface's ability to run full professional programs like Photoshop all open the scope of a computing device that can both entertain you and work for you at the same time.

• Good design is aesthetic Surface is beautiful when it's turned off -- like the iPad and MacBook Air -- and it's also beautiful when it's turned on. It defines simple and sleek minimalism. The software has exactly the same attributes.

Everyone who has seen and touched it thinks the Surface itself is gorgeous. Metro is perfect for it: colourful, simple, without the horrible artifice of skeuomorphism omnipresent in OS X and iOS.

• Good design helps us to understand a product Surface's hardware and software is self-explanatory. Three seconds with the product and you know how to transform it from tablet to ultrabook. Boot it and you will be able to fully understand Metro immediately, discovering its more advanced features quickly.

• Good design is unobtrusive With Surface, there's nothing to get in your way. Hardware-wise, it's a tablet designed to be held, with angles that are comfortable in your hands. Microsoft claims that, in ultrabook mode, the keyboard is better than any other keyboard -- although the fact that they wouldn't let anyone touch it may belie that sentiment. But the keyboard is undeniably unobtrusive, disappearing every time you cover your tablet's display. And the built-in trackpad allows you to edit any part of a document without having to lift your hands off the keyboard. It's certainly more elegant than Apple's wireless accessory solutions.

The same thing happens with Metro. It never gets in the way of the most important thing: your information.

• Good design is honest Devoid of artifice, Surface and Metro are both designed to serve their respective functions. There's no gratuitious eye candy. Every curve, every part and notch in the hardware is there to make its mission possible. In Metro, even the smallest animations have been designed to convey a meaning. Nothing is there just for fun. Unlike iOS and OS X, there are no artificial skins, no leather, no trying to fake real objects that are already obsolete in the real world.

• Good design is durable Microsoft stressed that the VaporMg process is extremely durable. The screen uses Corning's Gorilla Glass 2, like most high-end devices in the market, and the keyboard appears solidly built too. Metro will stand the test of time because it doesn't use outdated visual metaphors. It's transparent to the user -- all information, no adornment. iOS feels dated next to it. Metro's user experience is one that I see going well into this century, for as long as we use touchscreens.

• Good design is consequent to the last detail Clearly, the philosophy of Surface is united across hardware and software. Everything responds to the same values. Every detail is part of a single idea and responds to all these principles.

This is where Apple fails. The hardware is consequent to the last detail, but the user experience is not consistent with the principles established in the hardware. Objectively and comparatively, it's a mess. Ive's designs are tainted by Forstall's leather.

• Good design is as little design as possible Both Microsoft and Apple's hardware follow this rule strictly. But Microsoft outdoes Apple by taking this principle to the user experience too, as explained above.

The design in Metro is as minimal as it can get, unlike the land of fake surfaces and shiny knobs in iOS or OS X. Information is God in the Metro universe, and every graphic element is there to show it in the clearest way possible. In other words, there are no frivolous graphical elements to get in the way.

Excited? You should be

If Microsoft doesn't fumble the execution -- which means that the price and the battery life should be competitive with Apple's offerings, and that keyboard lives up to its billing -- it has a real chance of stopping the seemingly unstoppable Apple empire, or at least slowing it down.

If it fulfils its promise, if Microsoft Surface Pro is $US800 or $US900 and can pull six or seven hours of battery life, then things will change. It's going to be hard, since they don't have the app ecosystem yet, but that will come eventually. Microsoft has the user base, the developer base and the deep pockets to make sure of that.

The only thing Microsoft was missing until yesterday was a better platform. Now all the pieces are in place for a fair war, just like the good old days.

Later this year, you will have two choices: you can either get a MacBook Air for work and an iPad for play, or you can get a beautifully designed, ultra-fast tablet with a sleek touch interface that can also be a full computer with the power of an ultrabook.

The iPad started a new era in computing, but for all its undeniable hardware innovation and beauty, it carries a legacy. It's a truly useful and fun colour Newton on gorgeous, zippy hardware. And the MacBook Air is perhaps the perfect ultrabook, the pinnacle of Apple's laptop evolution. But, sadly, it runs an OS X/iOS Frankenlion, and it represents the end of an era, not the future. Both are extremely good and successful products, but when you look at them as a complete package of hardware and software, they fail to pass the stringent 10 principles test advanced by Dieter Rams.

But Surface is new from the ground up. It's a coherent product that can be a tablet like the iPad and an ultrabook like the MacBook Air. A new product that merges the old and the new into something that seems to work quite nicely.

Surface could be the first device to fulfil the promise of the New Computing Era ushered in by the iPad. This is going to be fun.



    so smooooth...

    My main concern at this early stage is the Surface seems to be a bit desk-bound. In fact, I can't imagine using it on my lap like a laptop, which is odd for such a light machine. The kickstand will be good for viewing, but not so good for practical use. I'm also not sold on using touch on an upright surface, very fatiguing.

    Shiny this, beauty that, unobtrusive yadda.

    I didn't order the Massey Ferguson to sit silently in my front yard as a glorious monument to industrial design. It has a very clear, very unambiguous purpose. I want it to dig shit up in a plainly functional way.

    That said, you could skip every single point on Ives' list, and sum it up with a single sentence:
    "Hey look! We added a keyboard!"

    And just like that, productivity was rediscovered.

      Did you bother to even read the full article? Time and again it was stressed that Metro is the Massey Ferguson of information management/presentation. i.e. You are actually agreeing with the points you are trying to argue against.


        My point is this:

        The article went to great pains to stress Ives' points of design. Really, when it comes down to what Microsoft have added, it comes down to a Keyboard.

        I don't know what you do for a living, but I do a shit load of writing. As a consequence, I've always seen the iPad as shallow, aimed at arts students who want to browse deviant art more efficiently. To put it bluntly - I don't see any need to get artsy over a device you are using to do a job, do you?

          What's wrong with using sexy tools while working? Functionality is the basis but the design is the flare!


          I fly commercial jets, as a consequence I've always seen family cars as shallow, aimed at people who only want to drive on roads.

          So your happy with a processor in a brick ? If it was left up to people like you, we would be living in a world of grey with a tinge of sharp edge.

          It didn't mention any of Ives' own design principles at all. You really do have trouble reading, surely that affects your writing? Industrial design is not the same as graphic design. It is not about being "artsy", it is about utility and form and that is expressed quite well in Dieter Rams' principles. i.e. It is about function first and foremost, just like your tractor.

            Oooooo Snap!

        There have been keybaord-cases for the Ipad since just aftger the original version. Prductivity has not been re-discovered; rather, it has always been there.

          Yeah but they are third party devices that are either hideous or just as heavy as the iPad itself. Most of them require Bluetooth, too, which will run your battery down faster. OTOH, the Surface ones are only 4.5 and 5.5mm thick and have a direct interface with the device. They are also a lot smarter than any of the third party stuff available for iPad.

      Well, the kickstand and having it verticle are obviously for video use, or as a qwazi laptop with the keyboard, obviously it still works like a normal tablet if you have it lying down.

    Forgotten tag: speculation; MS hasn't actually given any details about battery life or price.

    However, while the design and competition is exciting, has everyone already forgotten how terrible it was typing on a netbook keyboard? Secondly, can I use this on my lap? How can this compete in the ultrabook market if the screen requires a kickstand that will unlikely keep the whole thing stable while using it on-the-go? Does the keyboard need to be lying on a flat surface?

    It seems to me that we're getting product that's going after 2 markets and capturing 0.

      The keyboard is there, doesn't mean you have to use it and it will no doubt be an extra cost to have it. It has a USB so you can plug in a bigger keyboard when working on it and I think it has Display Ports meaning you can plug in a bigger screen.

      I'm almost completely sold on this and planning to purchase a few for work 'IF' there is a docking station available for it that can have maybe two monitors, keyboard and mouse. This way mobile users just put in dock and use as normal computer. When going out to clients, take surface with you and use. Everything in one nice little package but that is an IF. I've fallen out of love with tablets when I know I have to go back to a desktop/laptop to complete work but have all in one with the help of a docking station. Gimme Gimme.

        That's great, but by virtue of the keyboard being a key selling point of this device, "doesn't mean you have to use it" completely changes what we're talking about.

        I clearly said I was impressed with the tablet hardware itself, but the apparently limited environment in which the keyboard can be used almost cancels out the advantages it brings.

      "It seems to me that we’re getting product that’s going after 2 markets and capturing 0."

      I see it as we are getting 2 products going after 2 markets. 1 having the potential to capture 1 (RT) and the other having the potential to capture both (Pro)

        going after 2 markets and capturing 0?? I agree with Si but they could capture 3 markets

        Then you've missed my point. Although, I didn't say it clearly, I was focusing on the Pro, that's my mistake.

        I agree that the RT (without the keyboard) will most likely be a significant competitor in the tablet market, the Pro, to me, doesn't seem to be aimed particularly well at either the tablet or ultrabook market.

        Which brings me to my original point, since the use cases for the keyboard are more limited than that of a regular ultrabook, as a competitor in that market, it is not as competitive as the rest. With respect to its tablet capabilities, yes, the keyboard entry is great, but since you're limited to using the keyboard on flat surfaces and locked to the angle at which the kickstand supports the tablet, you're sort of defeating the purpose of getting it as a tablet (more portable than an note/ultrabook).

        So yeah, aiming for 2 markets and capturing 0.

      You seem to be missing the key fact that the keyboard is detachable. If you are in a position to use the keyboard & kickstand combo then do so, if not use it like a tablet with an on-screen keyboard.

      People have been using iPads for 2 years now, and have figured out how to use them while sitting down.

      Andrew, I think you are missing the point of the keyboard.

      It's not meant for using on the couch. Existing tablets have proven that tablet couch surfing is acceptable for most people.

      It's meant for meetings in other people's offices, planes and travelling.

      This is a push to bring business to tablets. While YOU may want to use photoshop on the couch, it's not the intent of the device.

        And therein lies another potential problem with the Pro, by defining what the device is for ("It's not meant for using on the couch", "meetings in other people’s offices, planes and travelling") you can be seen as shutting out a segment of the market that might otherwise be interested. I'm not saying that as a tablet it won't be successful, I'm saying that by 'selling' it as an ultrabook, it will come up short against other ultrabooks for actual usefulness, and alienate itself as a tablet.

        I'm not sure where you got that I want to use Photoshop, much less on the couch, I would be using it on a suitably powered machine with the appropriate input devices (mouse and/or pen). If you read my post carefully I didn't even imply that was the intent of the device.

      Actually, it seems to me that you have not given the concept even one second's thought. Did you even bother reading this? Surface is a tablet, if you can use an iPad or a Galaxy Tab on your lap, why would you not be able to use this? The difference is that Surface also works on a desktop without you having to lug around extra kit to make it viable. When you don't want to use the kickstand, it is locked against the back of the device. It is no more obtrusive than a battery cover on a phone, yet will make the Surface rock-solid on a desktop, where it is designed to be used. The rest of the time it is just like any other tablet out there, only more so because it can run proper software (Pro version).

      Seriously, if that is your honest assessment, you must be an actual half-wit.

        Actually MotorMoron, you've missed the point of what Andrew is saying. He's saying that this does not provide a competitor in the ultrabook market as you can not type effectively in your lap. Ultrabooks not only portable - i.e. small and lightweight, but they are also perfect for doing real work on public transport, in airport lounges, sitting on the couch, etc. This is not a competitor in that space. I agree.

          I'm sorry but if I didn't get that point it is because it is absurd. Why would you not be able to type on the keyboard on your lap if you wanted to? For all we know at this stage, it might be easier than with an ultrabook (which in my direct experience, is not at all easy). The Touch Cover might be too floppy but the Type Cover won't be, which is the one I'd probably go for if I bought a Surface (which I won't).

        Once again, I never said it would not be *able* to compete with other tablets, in fact I said I was excited by its design and the competition it should bring to the existing line up.

        What I'm trying to say, which people seem not to be getting, is that by using the keyboard as a key feature to sell the tablet, since its use cases are apparently limited (flat surface, locked to one angle), it will inevitably come up short when compared to its competitors (ultrabooks). By virtue of it being aimed at the ultrabook market, I believe it will not succeed in the tablet market.

        Secondly, if it were *designed* to be used on the desktop, the keyboard would not be a detachable accessory, it would be attached to unit itself... much like a notebook or ultrabook.

        Lastly, define "proper software". How does running "proper software" (on the Pro) make it more "so" (like any other tablet out there)?

        It's great to see that people can discuss these things civilly-- oh wait.

          I'm sorry but your point makes little sense. Your point may hold true for a tiny percentage of potential ultrabook customers but I don't think it will be an issue for the majority. It doesn't have to do every, single thing an ultrabook can to compete with it, it just has to be able to do the things users need. Some users might need a greater range of angles, other won't care about that at all.
          The reason Surface won't compete with ultrabooks for my money is that it is only Core i5 and it doesn't have enough connectivity for my needs. But that doesn't mean that millions of other potential customers won't see it as a perfectly viable alternative to an ultrabook.
          You just have yo look at what an ultrabook is - an extremely portable, small and lightweight computer that offers a full PC experience. Now, what is Surface Pro, if not an extremely portable, small and lightweight computer that will offer a full PC experience?

      Yeah I'm worried about the keyboard too. But judging by the amount of attention to detail they've applied to every little thing (you should check out the lead designer in the keynote video, he was scary in how passionate he was) I am confident that the keyboard experience is good.
      Also, I think the number 1 reason why MS settled on a 16x9 ratio is because a keyboard would only be workable and comfortable if it's wide enough. I have stopped using my iPad's keyboard, becaus it is just not wide enough. I'm telling you, MS has been working on this for reportedly 18 months. Every little details has been thought through.

    I generally stay away from apple products but I will admit they look quite nice, and hey who doesn't like their shiny new product to look good as well? This is the first microsoft product in a long time that I am genuinely excited for and may move me from my android tab.

    Considering that every sales rep I work with got an iPad and then immediately went out and bought a keyboard and stand to go with it that looks near on identical to this, I think MS is on a winner. I look forward to seeing the reviews.

    yes but the keyboard is touch sensitive, no click sounds, and the glass is VERY strong apparently...unlike apple products which crack/break on the first have to admit it does looks way better than an ipad or Mac book air which is why most people buy these things

      even if the glass is VERY strong, it will still break if you drop it.....

    Good to see Microsoft picking itself off the floor, but the fight will be won in the ring not in the pre-fright media conference! To early to say anything about this product other than its kind of cool, which is a huge leap forward for Microsoft!

    THe ONLY real downer i can see is the screen size. I'd love to completely replace everything with something like this, but with a tablet sized screen sitting on the couch doing something in photoshop or excel, it would soon get frustrating, and i might not want to be tied down to a desk with an external display. Would be great if they brought it out in 2 screen sizes.

      As far as tablets go, I think anything bigger screen size wise would be uncomfortable to use on the couch, and that would defeat the purpose.

      With the screen size the way it is, you can use it comfortably on the couch, and then you can plug in a larger display when at your desk.

      You could always plug it into a TV while on the couch too, which would be a bit odd I think (but it will be something I will no doubt try out with mine when they come out)

      Then I suggest you look at the slate devices already available.

        This is only the MS version of their two tablets. Their hardware partners such as Dell, HP, Acer etc will bring thier own out and no doubt the screen will be bigger and smaller.

      Asus will have a Windows 8 tablet for you with an 18.4" screen, called AIO.

      I'm fairly certain other OEM's will be offering touch screen ultrabooks, and it sounds like that would be more your style.

    Very excited here. Since hearing about Win 8 I've been looking forward to seeing the tablet offerings that run it. If I'm shelling out decent money for a tablet I want it to be able to do the work of a laptop too, running full featured programs while also offering convenience of content consumption in tablet mode. I will definitely be watching this one with interest.

    I think Jonny Ive just vomited in his mouth a little bit. I mean, look at the kickstand. That's easily the worst design elementof what looks like an iPad crossed with a military footlocker.

      How does that look like an iPad? No home button, windows logo on the front, different ports. Or is it just because it's a rectangle and has a glass front?

        Rectangle and glass front? Yep, that would of course be the iPad part (let's face it - the design standard in this sector). The rest would be the rather inelegant army-chic.

        However I feel you miss my point: The kickstand in no way fits with the Jonny Ive/Deiter Rams design aesthetic. It's simply unnecessary and flimsy in appearnce. Ugh!

          Did Apple invent the rectangle, glass front tablet? Oh, you learn something new every day. ^___________^

          It adds function (propping up the device), and every preview has stated that, while very thin, it is extremely sturdy and solid.

            A set of wheels would also add function, but they wouldn't make it look any better.

            Don't get me wrong, this may be the unit to blow the iPad out of the water (yes, I will keep that military metaphor going, thank you very much), but if anyone dares to suggest that kickstand abides by the Ive/Rams design aesthetic well, I'll eat my enitre collection of vintage Braun shavers.

              The kickstand is one of the essential elements that elevate make the Surface more usable than an iPad by allowing you to prop it up on a surface without carrying a bunch of extra hardware. If you want to look at Rams' principles it's useful, innovative, honest, aesthetic and unobtrusive. That said, if the kickstand doesn't abide by Rams or Ives aesthetics, the fault lies in their aesthetics and not the kickstand. Hope vintage razors are tasty.

              You should check out the keynote video. See where the designer talks 5 whole minutes about the kickstand, how it was made, why it was ncessary, etc. He was so passionate it would be funny, but he was dead serious. Welcome to the new MS, design is firmly entrenched in their culture now

              Of course it does, in that it provides function without getting in the way of usability. When you aren't using it, it is invisible. When you need it, it is there to do a job elegantly and efficiently. I can't imagine anything that complies with the principles better. iPad's smartcover certainly doesn't, for example.

        didn't you see the Apple arguments about the samsung 10.1 tab? apple has the patent on rectangle. I'm waiting for my kids school to receive the letter telling them they can't call them rectangles anymore, they have to call them over long squares.

      What? Have a look at it when folded away - it is invisible. When it is deployed it offers far greater stability than iPad's stupid "smart" cover. It is brilliant in both form and function. I feel sorry for youif you cannot see that.

      If someone described something to me as "an iPad crossed with a military footlocker", I'd be really excited. It sounds like exactly the kind of design I'd be into, as opposed to the girly style of Apple's products.

        So, nothing like the Ive/Rams design aesthetic then?

    I picked up a Transformer Prime not so long ago, then made the bad decision of lending it to someone. One flight of stairs later and there's a small crack in the screen T_T still useable, but I might use this as an excuse to just gift it permanently to someone and buy myself one of these :D
    *IF* the price/battery-life/unknowns work out positively that is.

      I'm sorry to hear. Did you then pick them up and drop them down the stairs, show them how it feels?

      Don't hold your breath. They have announced this VapourHardware only to preempt Google's Nexus announcement. I have grown up hearing MS's empty promises in response to trying to one up their competitors and stymie purchases.

    If this was coming out in a month or two, I would buy one. But 6 months for the i5 model.........I'm sure there will be much better products out there. Give the option for 8gb ram with 256gb ssd, i7 ulv ivy bridge then I will be sold, otherwise will be getting the MBA with those specs.

      Why an MB Air when it is about to be made to look like a complete dud, not just by Surface but also by the first wave of Win8 ultrabooks, like the Asus Taichi? Even today, or at least in the next few weeks, the Asus UX-31A is a better choice at a lower price.

    "In fact, it’s the first morphing computer that actually makes sense."
    With respect, IMHO that prize goes to the Lenovo Yoga ^_^

    The i5 Surface is making me seriously reconsider my need for gaming-grade graphics. HD4000 can match my current PC's GPU performance, which means StarCraft II on Low; i5 blows my current PC's CPU away, which means Far rendering of Minecraft. Portability of a tablet; peripheral, application and ecosystem support of a full-fledged PC.

    The only thing missing is a more powerful GPU - but my backlog goes back to HL2 and many less GPU-hungry games ... and like my Lumia this device is just *gorgeous*.

      Don't you dare call yourself a gamer if you are planning to play SC2 on this thing.

        What? RTS games are about the only game catagory that multi touch screens would actually enhance.

        Sucks to mouse. Have you seen the demo's of RUSE on the microsoft surface table? It looks fantastic.

    "Microsoft Surface Just Made The MacBook Air And The iPad Look Obsolete"That's a hell of a statement. I don't like Apple, but I don't want them dead either. What I want is true competition and MS just might be on the right track with this. However, I'm gonna wait 'till the prices come down on an Ultrabook with the latest WiFi spec and a decent Keyboard that doesn't need a back support.

      Apple won't die. They have die hard fans. Also someone needs to make tablets that little kids and grannies in retirement villages can figure out

    1. Does the thing even work? I see pictures but no 3rd party has reviewed it yet
    2. Is Windows 8 a decent OS? On my laptop I dislike using Win 8 Preview but maybe with touch it'll be better.
    3. What does it cost? If its in the high hundreds its too expensive.
    4. Windows using a different javascript touch model to iOS so none of the current touch-enabled web sites will work with it.

    Asus transformer tablet comes with a detachable keyboard the exact same as this. I don't think it looks as swish as the MS solution but still they came out with that months ago and there wasn't a huge kerfuffle about it.

      What? Of course there was a big kerfuffle. But this is a little bigger as it is the first actually computer from Microsoft and it shows a little more innovation.

    The enthusiasm seems bizarre...
    I can just imagine using an older program on the bigger x86 version of this thing and all the disappointment people have when they realise it's crap with a touchscreen...
    I dunno, I'll see when this thing is actually in my hands and usable, right now it's just yet another concept to me. I find it unexciting.

      Why use an older programme? Surely you would have moved up when upgrading to Win7 or even the terrible Vista?

        You'd be surprised.
        Besides, many older programs work fine in Vista and Win 7. There are many, many reasons why people don't upgrade every program when moving to updated OS versions- Key among them are expense, important existing work in older formats, established existing work-flow using specific programs that do not have updated versions etc.
        You can find those issues in any home setup, but business or academic environments multiply such issues 10 fold.

      A) The x86 issue is only a problem on the pro version, and people using the pro version are more likely to understand the situation
      B) If you need to do a lot of stuff outside of the metro environment then you can probably use the keyboard case

      I can't speak for everybody, but I am excited because the x86 stuff is an OPTION.

        On the contrary, I think the x86 dilemma is an issue for all versions. Customers are still going to want to know why their applications aren't working on Windows RT, and why a person with a similar looking (Windows Pro) device next to them can run them.

          I think that is a separate problem to x86 apps not working well for touch.

          I also think that what you pointed out is more of a marketing issue. They just need to make it clear that the RT version can't run old applications.

      "the exact same as this"? Really?

      So use a mouse or use the trackpad, as you would with a laptop. Just because the touchscreen is there doesn't mean you have to use it for every, single task. You use what works best for any given job. It is a complete non-issue.

    First, the GIF that popped up in my Google reader was awesome. Do more of that stuff!. Second, I really really really want this.^_^

    Remember the Zune? No? Fair enough,” Ferry writes. “When it was released in 2006, it was thought that Microsoft could design a digital music player that would challenge the supremacy of the iPod. Zune was discontinued in 2011 after five years of abysmal sales. Not to be dissuaded, Microsoft fired a shot across the bows of the iPhone by releasing their proprietary KIN phone, aimed at capitalizing on social networking. After spending several years and $1 billion on developing the KIN, the phones were pulled from shelves within months, and retailers returned droves of unsold phones back to Microsoft.”

    Ferry writes, “Under CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has strayed from its core competencies with unfortunate results multiple times. I am inclined to think that the Surface is no different, and is destined to be as successful as the Zune.”

      I love how that article glosses over the success of the Xbox. It also makes no mention of the Kinect (the world's fastest selling consumer device).

      Also, I don't think you can compare this to their other hardware failures. This is a Windows device.

        Beyond which, the Zune was a great device by all reviews. It's failure was marketing and hype (and that the only colour was poo brown). That doesn't appear to be an issue here.

          It didn't help that the Zune was not only sold in USA, with limited Canadian release. But the actual software to go with it would not run unless you set your system region and time to those zones.

          The iPod was an international device, of course the Zune had no chance.

        The XBox's success hasn't come without some major failings. The original wasn't received all that well in the end of the day (and was killed off relatively early) and there were things such as re-released controller designs that brought light to design issues. Then the 360 has absolutely abysmal failure rates that took about two years to fully resolve. Many other companies would have sunk after spending the $1billion Microsoft did to deal with it.

        It's all in the past now, but the XBox isn't a good case study for how to go about releasing hardware. If anything, it shows what deep pockets and the willingness to persevere can lead to.

          Read the innovator's dilemma. There is no avoiding failure in the pursuit of success. The point is, Xbox's failure lead to the success of Xbox 360. Zune and Kin's failure lead to Windows Phone and by extension Metro, which is now leading to WIndows 8

            Sure, I have no doubt that MS can get there in the end. That said, they have a high number of failures or non starters compared to the number of hits. While failures are inevitable, Microsoft has allowed a great many of those failures to make it all the way to the market place before pulling the pin rather than killing them while still in R&D. In some respects it is inevitable, in others I think it was a clear sign of issues with MSs ranks....the Kin for example was always destined to fail.

            I think they can do well in the tablet market, don't get me wrong. I just don't think the XBox is the sort of release you want to aspire to mimic. The eventual success is good, but it came after an awful amount of loss too. You could get to the same spot in a far cleaner fashion.

      I remember Zune very well and I and a lot of others really liked it but it failed due to the fact that there was no marketing done for it and it was an North America only. Again another reason why it failed, not because Steve or whoever else was because Apple was flooding the market with advertising and the market was changing towards Mobile Phones with built in Music Players, something that Apple is now focusing on.

      Zune is now pretty much inside or changed to WP7 and soon to be released WP8.

      Why choose Zune and Kin, why not choose to compare to X-Box? The X-Box comparison is much more appropriate and MS won that war convincingly. Oh, and for the record, Zune HD is the best media player money can buy.

        Fair comments on the x-box, however, disagree with the Zune HD comment... It is great and I love it... Used to have the dock tucked in under the telly and connected via an HDMI cable, (loved watching Misfits and a bit of Fringe on it) also used it as my going to bed AV platform and for when I walked the dog and stuff... Not so much anymore... It is a little too small for portable video and even though the sound is great it is that extra device thing that is killing it.

        Good try blind Microsoft lover, but without a decent source of applications and media content, compared to the iPod touch the Zune HD is worthless garbage.

    Speculation... fun but useless... When is the release date and can we have a play before hand? Once again JD is making judgement calls, admittedly based on Deiter Ram's philosophy, but judgement calls nonetheless. Be afraid Apple (and everyone else for that matter)... The boogedly tablet is coming to get you... Give me a spell, or, start selling the thing! Boogedy, boogedy... BOO!

    I'm now tossing up between this and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. This would be a proper, full-functioning OS which would be good, but I'm not sure how they're going to make it light enough to run with comparable battery life. The transformer is more of a tablet/hybrid and its keyboard is more functional, giving it extra ports and an extra 5 hours of battery life, bringing the total to 15 hours, which I don't think any ultrabook can match.
    So I guess I'm just waiting to see how it performs in the real world in regards to efficiency. And I'd probably miss the widgets of Android.

      It really depends how you want to use it. With an x86 tablet you can do all the stuff you can do on any notebook or desktop. With an Android tablet you have to modify how you approach the same work, migrate stuff to apps or web based tools like Google Drive etc. What makes you feel more comfortable?

      For me I want a tablet with decent specs and a pressure sensitive pen so I can use it for my artwork. So far all Android tablets with such devices don't have very impressive specs, and Apple with never have an active digitizer so they're automatically out of the running. So that's the one thing I really look for in this device.

      The problem I see with the philosophy of the Transformer is that you need the battery life when it is in tablet mode. Surely when you plug it into the keyboard base, you will usually have access to mains power? i..e The use case for the feature isn't really there.

      If I didn't need to do 3D animation and HD video editing, I'd be all over this but, as it stands, the Asus Taichi still looks like it will be my next computer.

        I'd want a transformer style keyboard dock too. For my use I'd like to be able to wander around the house/office with it docked into a keyboard and not plugged in then undock it and take to meetings (probably with the more portable keyboard) etc.

        I'd want a transformer style keyboard dock too. For my use I'd like to be able to wander around the house/office with it docked into a keyboard and not plugged in then undock it and take to meetings (probably with the more portable keyboard or not at all) etc. Options are good :)

    "Nothing is there just for fun." - and that's written as a positive statement?

    If, and thats a pretty big if, this actually captures the user (rather than the tech journalists) attention, then I think Android will be the loser, rather than Apple. The Apple user typically is on the latest version of iOS or OS X, they use MULTIPLE Apple components - iPhone, iPad, Computer, iTunes, APP Store, iCloud, etc. This is a LOT for them to change and few will want to (exactly why Windows users stayed sticky). Android users are very fragmented, and they are not as wedded to a whole ecosystem.

    Microsoft is the king of overstating and under delivering. Remember how Kinect was going to revolutionize gaming. I have the revolutionized and redefined the word "inept"

      Kinect is a total joke, people got conned into buy a PIS that does nothing to help gaming at all, it just set gaming backwards 10 years!

      Kinect is the future. So is Siri. It's fun to make fun of it now, but it will one day be the future of HMI

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