When I participated in one of ZDNet's great debates this week, I found myself in somewhat of an unusual position. Me -- a Microsoft watcher charged with minding the 'Soft -- was on the side of not just defending, but actually cheering on, Microsoft.
The primary topic of our debate was Microsoft's announcement that it plans to sell Microsoft-branded Intel- and ARM-based hardware running the next versions of Windows. The opening statements, rebuttal and closing statements from the "Did Microsoft just throw its users under the bus?" debate -- which I won, by the way (sorry Mr. Perlow) -- is available for your perusal.
Here was the gist of my argument:
Sadly for us consumers who've wanted Windows PCs, the innovative models have been few and far between. Everything looks the same. The trackpads are awful. There are almost no models with matte screens, only glossy. Battery life on most models is... meh. And don't get me started on the crapware preloading that is still going on out there.
Yes, I understand PC sales are down and pressure on OEM margins is up. But the solution isn't to keep churning out me-too machines. If HP decides to take its tablet and go home, I, for one, won't be shedding any tears. And it looks like my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott won't be crying a river, either. Like Bott, I believe the times and the competition have changed in a way that requires new tactics.
Microsoft execs, in introducing the Surface earlier this month, talked about their "pride in craftsmanship" with the coming devices. That should (hopefully) translate into "pride in ownership" with users. I don't think I'm alone in wanting a solidly made, beautiful-looking, distinctive PC and/or tablet. Apple users aren't the only ones willing to pay a fair price for something drool-worthy.
What is going to help sell Windows 8 is *the hardware.* Because Windows 8 works so differently from previous versions of Windows, Microsoft needs different kinds of devices to help sell it. The hardware needs to make the OS more palatable.
Until last week, I didn't think Microsoft's Windows 8 bet would pay off because I hadn't seen any PCs or tablets that could go head-to-head with the iPad or Macbooks. Now I have at least a glimmer of hope that the Surfaces may be those devices.
Yes, there's still a lot we don't know about the coming Surfaces, including battery life, price and even final weight. But one thing I do know is these devices give some credence to a Microsoft claim I've never believed until now: That tablets are PCs. The Windows tablets we've seen to date don't back this claim, in my opinion. But the Microsoft Surfaces just might.
Whether you call these things PCs, tablets, Pablets or TCs -- I want one. At least so far....