Dear Microsoft: An Open Letter About The Microsoft Surface

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After last night’s announcement of the Microsoft Surface we have decided to pool our thoughts for one large article about the upcoming(?) release of the tablet. So here’s our thoughts on the Surface, Microsoft, and everything in between.

More after the jump!

Dear Microsoft,

Marty here. I know I’m an Apple fan, but I wanted to tell you something. Good job on your presentation yesterday. It seems like people really thought what you had to show was special. The buzz for your event was better than any Microsoft event before it. I’m sure that made you feel really good. The Surface seems like a neat little device and a possible contender in the tablet market. But, see, that’s where my problem is: too many times we all have heard that the newest tablet on the block is going to be a possible contender, an “iPad killer”, if you will, and time after time we see those projects fall by the wayside as they have little to no public consumer interest. Why is that? People spend countless hours of time and money, pouring energy into a product that they believe in, and then it crashes in a big fiery ball upon launch. Surely that has to hurt, and eventually, could break a company. Now, I know a company like yours has vast, innumerable resources and that couldn’t happen, but I’d like you to think about why no other company’s efforts in the tablet market have stuck like the iPad. Got any ideas yet? Let me give you a hint: customer satisfaction. More people are satisfied with their iPads than any other device out on the market today. The user base is huge, and still growing, and surveys show that Apple’s customers are more often than not completely satisfied with their device.

That’s not to say that you guys couldn’t eventually see that with the Surface. But, the problem is that Apple has a THREE YEAR head start on anything you can do. And, I eventually, that three year head start is going to catch up with you. If I were in the technology sector today, and my company was successful, the thing that would scare me the most would be trying to break into the tablet market, because most people simply call any tablet an iPad. Or, they say, “Oh, that’s just like an iPad!” It’s almost the same situation in the soda market between Coke and Pepsi. In the South, EVERYTHING is a Coke. It’s the original, and I’m sorry Pepsi fans, but anything else is a just an imitation. And that’s my fear for you, Microsoft. I think that despite the good things that the Surface has to offer, most people will see it simply as an imitator. And imitators never live up to the potential of the original. And that’s before you announce the final specs, the prices, the final models, and all that extra stuff. It’s a good try, but I’m sure that the Surface will never live up to the potential of the iPad. Call me crazy, but this could just be another Zune.

Jared: The iPad is so simple and intuitive that you can hand it to a 3 year old and you know they’ll be able to launch Angry Birds and start “playing” almost immediately. As much as I like Metro (and I really like Metro) I just don’t see it being intuitive enough for anybody, whether they be 8 or 80, to pick up and begin using immediately like they can on iOS. It’s not necessarily a weakness, but it is an illustration of the starkly different approaches Apple and Microsoft are taking to mobile computing.

Steve Ballmer contradicted himself a lot in yesterday’s presentation. Microsoft is the empire that it is today because it existed to license its software to multiple hardware makers. But Ballmer went on a spiel about how Microsoft has a legacy of building hardware (what he really meant was peripherals, like mice and keyboards) and how they felt strongly that the greatest approach to computing was to build the hardware and software together… the complete opposite of Microsoft’s entire business model! He seemed to realize that just mere moments later when he started talking about how important their Windows licensees are… right after he said their product was inherently inferior to anything Microsoft would make themselves. Ugh. My head hurts.

In the end, the real thing that will make or break Surface is pricing… which they glaringly refused to talk about yesterday. They said it would be priced “competitively” with Ultrabooks on the market now, which would mean at least $1,000 for the Intel model. Is Surface just Zune 3.0?

Josh here to wrap this up.

So first of all, what happened to this:

The original “Surface” by Microsoft. Far cooler, and hey look, it’s a Zune! Oh wait….all of these have been discontinued….

 

See, that version of the Surface was a cool idea, I personally thought. Would Apple have pulled it off better? Well sure, they’re Apple, but at least you had the idea. That version of the Surface was practical for a working person, and could have revolutionized the office furniture industry. But as that picture shows, and subsequent video it was captured from, Microsoft has a knack for totally killing off products instead of revolutionizing them. And yeah, I owned a Zune.

Many rumors flying around yesterday were that we would see the Courier brought back to life. The Courier is a classic example of a product that was never really brought to total fruition and left somewhere in limbo between the cutting room floor and a shelf. While maybe not practical for everyone, Courier would’ve had a very interesting market and would’ve been successful.

So how can a company that claims to have such a huge user base (see our live blog here for the stats) have no idea of what consumers actually want? No, the all new Surface isn’t horrible, and yes I think it’s the most viable “other” tablet on the market, but do we want 3 separate versions?!? NO! Simple is better. Like Jared mentioned, there’s no way I’m handing that tablet to my kid. Furthermore, why couldn’t you provide information about upcoming applications for this thing? Lots of shady things seem to be shaping up around this tablet already; I mean, I’m pretty sure they just drew a keyboard on a Smart Cover and attached it to the Surface.

So why wasn’t there a price point given?  What about a firm release date? Do you not want pre-orders? To me, it seems as if Microsoft isn’t actually sure of these details, and for sure doesn’t want you to know them. The information that was given yesterday in the reveal was the only info they want you to know about the Surface. After live blogging I began to check in with people actually at the conference center who were waiting to demo the Surface. My favorite, and most telling, comment I saw afterwards was from Danny Sullivan (daggle.com and follow him @dannysullivan on the tweeting device). Danny is the editor of SearchEngineLand.com, which covers Google, SEO, PPC, and all aspects of search engines and search marketing. This tablet could be huge for him! As he got to demo one this happened:

 

Which caused a huge response from the Twitter world. He responds to another user here:

 

Here’s my theory: Microsoft had been informed that this project had been compromised, and was about to be leaked online, like past products. Instead of taking the punch online, they determined they could go forward at once with a product they could place in your hand, that way there isn’t so much backlash. This explains the rushed announcement, no price point, and no firm release date.

In conclusion, I’m with Jared and Marty here; this is a flop. At this point in time there is NO ONE who can adequately compete with Apple in the tablet market, a market that Apple has proven is viable and profitable. Microsoft has been behind the curve for quite some time now, but at least they admitted that the Xbox is where it’s at for them.

Dying system, dying software, dying hardware: DONE.

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