Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

Summary: When the vision is sinking, it's time for another reorganization. But it appears that Microsoft isn't ready to admit that Apple's success with the iPad has put the final torpedo into Redmond's expensive Surface collaboration technology.

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When the vision is sinking, it's time for another reorganization. But it appears that Microsoft isn't ready to admit that Apple's success with the iPad has put the final torpedo into Redmond's expensive Surface collaboration technology.

First off, Microsoft appears to have had little clue that the iPad was something that real users wanted. In an interview with Brent Schlender at BNet.com a month before the release of the iPad, Bill Gates held to Microsoft's tablet and netbook strategies.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I asked Jobs’ longtime rival, Bill Gates, what he thought of the iPad. After all, Gates has been a proponent of tablet computers for years, and he was in awe of the iPhone when it first came out. But the iPad?  Gates told me he isn’t sold.

“You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard - in other words a netbook - will be the mainstream on that,” he said. “So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’  It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.’”

Right, Microsoft could done so much better? Less than one month after the iPad introduction, Apple had sold 1 million units. According to reports, 200K units are being sold weekly. The iPad 3G is in short supply in the U.S. market. Microsoft certainly wouldn't want to have done that!

Okay, so we understand that the Redmond brain-trust couldn't say anything publicly and certainly nothing like "Apple looks like it has another hit on its hands while we're treading water." But with this week's reorganization, we can see how the past strategic vision is playing out.

Check Out: Apple iPad's tablet competition drop like flies, e-book readers next

As I've posted on before, Apple and its developers have targeted business collaboration as a strong user value of the iPad. Certainly, the device is fun, but it also can be used in a business context: by multiple persons seated around a table to brainstorm ideas, draw flowcharts and work up a project. And this can happen anywhere, without a whiteboard or even anyone to take minutes. It's already all on the iPad.

Check Out: How many touches can an iPad touch?

What is Microsoft's collaboration solution? Surface. Here's Bill Gates on the topic a short couple of years ago:

For those who listened closely to Gates’ Sunday night keynote, there was a hint that gaming and office-productivity applications are in the pipeline for a Surface “desk,” “meeting room table” or other kinds of future Surface systems, as well. From the transcript of Gates’ remarks:

“Your desk, we won’t just have the computer on the desk, but in the desk, so a meeting room table as you’re collaborating, and the living room if you want to briefing up and play games with something like a Surface, or organize your photos. It will just be there, and easy to manipulate, easy to change and have multiple people connect up.”

Sorry Charlie. The $499 iPad lets the business customers forget the desk, table and meeting room. And the iPad works just as Microsoft imagined for Surface technology but without the expensive and heavy hardware overhead:

For Users: Microsoft Surface represents a fundamental change in the way we interact with digital content. Leave the mouse and keyboard behind. Surface lets you grab digital content with your hands and move information with simple gestures and touches. Surface also sees and interacts with objects placed on the screen, allowing you to move information between devices like mobile phones or cameras. The result is a fun, social and exciting computing experience like you’ve never had before.

For Businesses: Microsoft Surface provides tremendous potential for businesses to improve communication, and be more efficient in how they deliver information and services to their customers. The intuitive and approachable interface is easy to learn and the familiar software platform makes it easy to manage, too. The multi-touch and multi-user capabilities create an incredibly collaborative experience, where sharing and exploring information is easier than ever.

Here's a guess: Based on the timelines needed for hardware development, tooling and production, Microsoft Surface and the iPad may have been conceived around the same time. Each took a different tack towards collaboration. Why Microsoft took the Pong model we won't know. With the release of the iPad, Apple's approach seems obvious. Of course, it ain't.

According to Mary-Jo Foley's reporting at All About Microsoft, Microsoft has moved its Macintosh Business Unit away from the Specialized Devices and Applications team. We can only hope that's good news. The further away from Surface the better.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Hardware, iPad, Microsoft, Mobility, Software

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  • I think you're missing the point somewhat

    Gates: It?s a nice reader, but there?s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, "Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it."

    Morgenstern: "Right, Microsoft could done so much better?"

    Gates isn't saying Microsoft could necessarily have done any better, he's saying that Apple haven't put anything in the iPad that is incredible and innovative as what they put into the iPhone. Apple have basically managed a better execution of the tablet concept compared to other devices, but the gap between existing tablets and the iPad is much smaller than the gap between existing smartphones and the iPhone when it first came out.


    I also think saying "What is Microsoft?s collaboration solution? Surface." is a little misleading as well, given that Microsoft have plenty of other collaboration solutions already in play. I'd also argue that what Microsoft are attempting to do with Surface is far more innovative than what Apple are attempting to do with the iPad and that even if they were conceived at the same time, it would take far longer to bring something like Surface to market at a reasonable price. That isn't to take anything away from the iPad, which is good at collaboration in the way you say it is, but a direct comparison between the two is like comparing chalk with cheese.
    Tom-Tech
    • Well, if MS is has something, they better get it out then. At one million

      sold, and 200,000 a month, it seems like everybody agrees with Apple and no confidence that MS will be able to deliver anything.
      DonnieBoy
      • a week

        @DonnieBoy
        200.000 a week. a week! and that's only in the us. it has been reported yesterday that apple has ramped up their monthly production to 2.5 million devices.
        banned from zdnet
      • Really DB? It seams more innovative

        Then anything Apple or Google put out.

        What's Google going to do, put out another copy of an Apple product? That's pretty much it, right? And like the Nexus One, nobody will want the cheap imitaion of the iPad.

        But the surface technology is different then the iPad (a 9" iPod), so it'll have it's following at some point.

        With the dismal failure of the Nexus One, Google should just give up, and start giving them away to developers.

        That is what they'll be forced to do in the end. :)
        John Zern
      • 200,000 in a week

        @banned from zdnet

        And here I thought it was a sucker born every minute. Seeing as there only about 10,000 minutes in a week it appears that suckers are born a bit more often these days.
        bobiroc
      • High US infant mortality rate

        @bobiroc
        "Seeing as there only about 10,000 minutes in a week it appears that suckers are born a bit more often these days."

        Your point being? Last I checked, this was a capitalist market place. As such, what other data point are you suggesting we look at?
        SpiritusInMachina
    • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

      @Tom-Tech let's me know just how many icripples are out there.
      blueskip
      • ucripple

        @blueskip
        Try learning how to use apostrophes before you start disparaging other's intelligence.
        SpiritusInMachina
    • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

      @Tom-Tech
      I'm in agreement with several of your statements. Microsoft really tried to be hugely innovative with Surface. They saw beauty in a touch surface and decided to make a huge solution that did everything.. BUT.

      Remember when PDAs were all the rage? Palm did just enough, and did it perfectly. Compaq, HP and the rest had windows devices that did amazing things, but did them very clunkily. Palm did very well until PDA users started NEEDING more functionality, memory, capability.

      I'm not sure what's coming, but I'd bet on some universal 'surface' oriented communication protocol built on top of bluetooth and obex transfer. Beyond that, we'll see a standardization of user interfaces (the average user's ui needs are fairly consistent) The primary differences will be in snappiness (where apple will win) flexibility (where android will win) and enterprise friendly (where microsoft MIGHT win)
      The bells and whistles of as-envisioned surface is great, but it's a LONG wait for it to be affordable everywhere.
      relativityboy
    • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

      @Tom-Tech
      I disagree somewhat. Why would MS spend the millions on the technology driving projects like surface and let it die on the vine? Courier? The Danger acquisition? So many great starts, yet horrible execution. Let's be honest for a moment. Microsoft's mantra in the 90's (we'll fix it in the nexy version), no longer applies. For companies to succeed, they have to be agile, which seems to be the antithesis of MS latest efforts. Innovation has left the building.

      To say surface is more innovative as compared to a coffee table from Ethan Allen, is technically correct. But when we think of the seminal moment when touch computing was ushered into the mainstream, when the paradigm shift took place, dont deride Apple, applaud them. Microsoft's Surface, to the layman, looks more like John King's magical wall, and Chuck Todd's Surface Table from Election 2008. A great piece of technology, but how it would translate to the layman is where MS failed.
      mrgoodall
    • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

      @Tom-Tech - Learn to speak English moron. Apple & Microsoft are not plural entities. They are each singular companies and should thus be referred to with words like is & has not are & have.
      jsanko
      • English is going to hell in a hand-cart

        @jsanko
        Thank you for pointing out that mistake, which is all too common nowadays. Mr Zern above also offends with his "seams" and "different then". The poor spelling and grammar often makes it that much harder to understand what some of these posters are trying to say. Are they not even able to use a spelling checker?
        rahbm
      • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

        @jsanko
        Learn to use punctuation, moron. While most people offend with commas sprinkled like pepper, your complete refusal to use them at all makes parsing your sentences just as problematic, if not more so.
        And while we're at it, unless Tom-Tom called you personally and dictated his response, his need to improve his English speaking ability is irrelevant here.

        Kettles and pots and all.
        SpiritusInMachina
      • You're the one who doesn't speak English

        @jsanko In the Queen's English, spoken in England, entities like companies are spoken of in the plural. So are football teams. They say "Arsenal have really got it together this year," and "Microsoft have a great new product."
        HollywoodDog
      • How provincial of you

        @jsanko Apparently you have no experience with english speakers from outside of the US. In the UK (where they have been speaking English a lot longer than we have), they do not combine groups into singular entities like we do here. It is correct UK english to say "My family are coming to dinner." My assumption was that Tom-Tech was not a US speaker, not that he was poorly educated. The one who ended up looking moronic was you unfortunately.
        jgpeters
      • English...

        @jsanko Have you not read anything written by... Englishmen? Bone up on the lingo before throwing stones.
        notme403@...
      • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

        @jsanko
        Calling him moron for the sake of grammer, shows how much worthy you are. Heh.
        --Ram--
        Ram U
      • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

        @jsanko All you got out of his post was spelling and grammatical errors? Nevermind that you seem to avoid the use of a comma like it was carrying some sort of plaque but by all means please be the grammar nazi here...
        athynz
      • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface predictions look now?

        @jsanko - A company is a legal person. However, there is a difference between American English and British English and it seems that no one is really sure what is correct.
        user#42
      • RE: Prediction hell: How dumb do Bill Gates & Microsoft's iPad, Surface pre

        @jsanko In England, corporations are referred to as plural entities. Therefore, to a Brit, "Apple have" and "Microsoft have" are correct.
        msalzberg