Can Microsoft Surface rival iPad? First reactions
UPDATE June 20: Microsoft unveiled its Surface tablet yesterday. The venue was a Hollywood studio, the audience hand-picked media and employees.
Scroll down for the two models' specs (at least, what's been revealed so far).
There's no pricing or release date yet. Other key details are missing such as whether the Surface will have cellular connectivity, and what apps will be available beyond the pre-loaded Office.
Here's a quick summary of the first wave of reviewer, analyst and (cough) "other" reaction:
"The keyboards embedded in the two covers are the secret sauce with the new Surface tablets.
"They are the same size; both covers work on the Windows RT and the Windows 8 Pro tablets. However, they have definite differences. The flat Touch Cover has keys with no travel, but it had a good tactile feel, almost like soft cloth. The Type Cover has keys that have some travel; they were of the right size and spacing, and offered the right amount of resistance. It felt like a typical keyboard on a laptop" - Matt Hamblen, Computerworld
"Microsoft’s move in creating its own tablet is the sign that PC manufacturers have lost the game. With less than 10% combined [tablet] market share, Microsoft can afford to lose the support of PC manufacturers in this sector," - Analysys Mason principal analyst Ronan de Renesse (comment to NBR)
"Super fascinating that Sinofsky pretty much choked. Big pressure." - Rod Drury on Twitter [Microsoft Windows division chief Steven Sinofsky, one of the presenters yesterday, is often seen as Steve Ballmer's heir apparent. Yesterday he had to grapple with a Surface crashing during a Netflix demo (see video below). A replacement tablet did work with the video streaming service. - CK].
L-R: The Surface team - President of the Windows and Windows Live Division Steven Sinofsky, Corporate Vice President of Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem Michael Angiulo and GM of Microsoft Surface Panos Panay.
I only got to hold the Surface briefly, but it felt substantial -- it was fairly light without feeling airy. Also, the screen didn't feel as responsive as I expected. I swiped the screen briefly to rotate around a panoramic picture Microsoft had on the device, but the feedback of the animation felt rough and didn't seem to respond as quickly to my swipes as I would have liked. - Eric Franklin, CNet
On Facebook, ex NZ PC World editor Ted Gibbons offered some choice captions on this viral photo of Microsoft hardware chief Michael Angiulo at the event: "What's that you say, there are already tablets on the market?" and "I can understand a journo being excited to get to the Surface launch, but to forget to put on your pants?" (Note also the row of reporters with MacBook Airs.) Click to zoom.
"My quick hands-on with the new 10.6-in. Surface tablets at Microsoft's launch on Monday gave me a little surprise: The edges on all four sides are sharp.
"I was expecting something a little smoother or rounder, for whatever reason. The black magnesium back cover and the black bezel on the front around the screen make the Surface tablet seem to be more in the Android camp than in iPad's." - Matt Hamblen, Computerworld.
“There are no surprises in the software – the Surface tablet uses the same two desktop and RT versions of Windows 8 we've been hearing about. As such, nothing has changed there and it still looks like a huge break with the past on the surface but with a jarring switch back to the old desktop world hidden beneath.
“In theory, it delivers all the benefits of both the tablet-optimized environment and the classic desktop approach and apps, but in reality the versions available to try at the moment are a horrible mishmash of the two worlds that is likely to be confusing for the consumer." - Ovum chief telecoms analsty Jan Dawson (Comments to NBR)
ABOVE: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with the Surface.
“The device itself looks compelling. Windows does have a huge installed base, and to the extent that IT managers see this device in one of its versions as a replacement for the Windows computer it should see some decent adoption. But whether it sees much consumer interest will depend entirely on price and whether Microsoft is able to fix the poor user-interface experience in Windows 8 and RT.” - Ovum chief telecoms analsty Jan Dawson (Comments to NBR)
"The problem for me is that it's going to work fine as a desktop and a tablet but not as a laptop. As in, on your lap." - Thomas Beagle on Twitter.
"Watching the live streams I was whooping with delight at the first device revealed. I’ve been waiting to see a well-executed ARM tablet for Windows 8 since ARM support was announced. [But] Then they showed the Intel device, and I was suddenly confused. Do I want a laptop replacement? Or an iPad-alike? I abhor a tablet with fans and vents, but I love the idea of being able to drop into Visual Studio (or Photoshop, or a game) on a tablet. Especially a tablet with an unobtrusive, usable keyboard.
"Put it this way: if Microsoft had only announced an ARM tablet yesterday I would have bought one, but now I have to decide. And if I’m undecided, what will mom and pop consumer think?"
- Auckland-based Windows-focused software developer Ben Gracewood on Ben Geek.
ABOVE: The 48-minute official event video.
"We managed a short hands-on with the ARM-based Surface at the launch event in Los Angeles. First impressions are good. The tablet is light, with a good clear 16:9 10.6in. screen. There's a USB port for devices, and an HDMI connection for larger screens and projectors.
"Perhaps the first impression is just how light it is, and how comfortable it feels. The chamfered sides fit neatly into the hand. The VaporMG magnesium alloy case is rigid, with very little torsion, and the Gorilla Glass 2.0 display lets the fingers glide over the touchscreen.
"The touchscreen worked smoothly, as did the capacitive Windows key in the bezel. The 10.6in. HD display means that the Surface is a device that's going to work best in landscape mode. Metro-style applications don't work well in portrait mode." - Simon Bisson, ZDNet
Microsoft has guts. It's what you get when you're the underdog; either that or you curl into a RIM 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. After yesterday's Surface event—assuming they don't fumble the execution—Gates' children may have found the weapon to stop the heirs of Jobs and turn the tide. Or at least make things exciting for everyone again. - Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo
Microsoft tantalises, frustrates as it unveils its own tablet – the Surface
UPDATE 12pm: At a much-hyped event in Hollywood, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has confirmed his company will release its own tablet, the Surface (a brand already used for the company's coffee table-sized touchscreen computer, only released in the US).
There were pricing or release date details - prompting Windows-focused New Zealand developer Ben Gracewood to grumble, "There's still one trick Microsoft needs to learn from Apple."
No mention was made of Nokia - Microsoft's key partner in mobile, which once had its own tablet plans (and which muddied the waters by releasing a new 41 megapixel smartphone camera today that runs on Symbian rather than Windows Phone software). The key question will be whether the likes of HP, Dell and Samsung are inspired to go hard with their own Windows tablets, or be alienated by Microsoft's move into tablet hardware.
There are two versions of the Surface.
One is roughly the same size as Apple's market-leading iPad, and runs on "Windows RT" (a version of Windows designed for ARM processors that shares a lot of code with Windows 8; good luck to retailers explaining that one).
A second, larger model runs the Pro version of Windows 8 (previewed here).
The smaller Surface is 9.3 mm thick (the new iPad is 9.4mm), with a full magnesium case, weighs "under 1.5 pounds" (676g to the new iPad's 652), and has 10.6-inch 16:9 display (the iPad is 9.7-inches on the diagonal but has a 4:3 ratio rather than the narrower, wider 16:9 ratio used by the Surface, and Androids).
Its stand-out feature is a choice of two covers with built-in keyboards: a Type Cover that includes a full tactile keyboard, and a Touch Cover featuring a flatter multi-touch keyboard (both keyboards form the inside of the cover when it's closed).
The Surface has been demonstrated running full-screen video from US streaming service Netflix - which looks like great news for those who live in North America, at least.
Microsoft has posted images, video and tech specs. It's quick summary:
Surface for Windows RT
- OS: Windows RT
- Weight: 676 g
- Thickness: 9.3mm
- Clear: 10.6” ClearType HD Display [detailed specs, including pixels, were not given]
- Energized: 31.5 W-h
- Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
- Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
- VaporMg Case & Stand
- Memory options: 32GB,64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro
- OS: Windows 8 Pro
- Weight: 903 g
- Thickness: 13.5mm
- Clear: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display [detailed specs, including pixels, were not given]
- Energized: 42 W-h
- Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
- Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
- VaporMg Case & Stand
- Memory options: 64GB, 128GB
8am: Microsoft is tipped to release its own tablet computer at an event at 10.30am NZ time in LA today.
The event has been shrouded in mystery, in an apparent attempt to ape Apple’s approach.
Even the location is secret (see invite below).
However, Microsoft is no Apple in terms of actually keeping things under wraps.
The location soon leaked (Milk Studios, if curious). As was the device to be unveiled: reportedly a Microsoft-branded tablet running a touch edition of the latest version of Window and powered by a chip from ARM Holdings.
There are already third-party "slate" tablets on the New Zealand market running a touch version of Windows (see Samsung Slate's in NBR's Windows 8 preview here), but most customers don't even know they exist, let alone actively considering them as an iPad or Android tablet alternative. In overseas markets, it's a similar story.
Google is also tipped to release its own tablet, following its move in the mobile market where it has launched several handsets in its Google Nexus series to help gee along adoption of its Android software (Google also recently bought Motorola’s cellphone division, but implied that purchase was for patents useful in its ongoing legal war with Apple).
In the PC market, Microsoft famously focussed on software only, partnering with a wide array of hardware makers.
However, there is precedent for the company making its own kit – the successful Xbox, in the game console market.
Microsoft has also partnered closely (but not exclusively) with Nokia in the cellphone market, entering a multi-billion alliance that has seen the Finnish company move most of its smartphones to the Windows Phone platform.
RAW DATA: Microsoft's invite to US journalists
You are invited to an exclusive Microsoft media event in Los Angeles, California on Monday, June 18th. Doors open at 3:30 PM.
This is an invitation only event and you are allowed to register up to one additional guest from your publication. All guests must be registered by replying below.
Additional information regarding the specific venue, address and parking information will be sent via e-mail to registered attendees on Monday morning, June 18th, no later than 10:00 AM.
This is a non-transferrable invitation, however, if you would like to send your local colleague in your place, please submit that name and it will be reviewed. If you would like to bring a photographer please register that person as your additional guest. Please note – still photography and video will be limited.
All attendees must be registered with exact names and done so in advance, no later than Sunday, June 17th at 10:00 AM, Pacific. You will be responsible for securing your travel and lodging.
Registration will be first come, first served.
To confirm your registration and to register a guest, please respond to the below e-mail address with name, phone number, e-mail address and outlet affiliation.
This will be a major Microsoft announcement – you will not want to miss it.