Surface? Apple's got nothing to worry about

Surface? Apple's got nothing to worry about

Summary: Sure the Surface looks nice, but price and availability are still unknown and iOS and the App Store have a two-plus year head start on Microsoft.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Apple

Surface? Apple's got nothing to worry about - Jason O'Grady

There's a ton of buzz about Microsoft's Monday announcement of Surface, a tablet PC to compete with the iPad and the legions of Android tablets on the market. While it looks promising, there's still a lot unanswered questions and it's probably too late to catch the momentum of the iPad and the App Store.

There's a lot of things to like about Surface:

  • Magnesium case
  • Touch Cover keyboard with accelerometers for detecting finger force
  • Type Cover keyboard for a more tactile typing experience
  • 2x2 MIMO antenna for better WiFi reception and speed
  • 5-pin magnetic charging connector (beating Apple at its own game?)
  • Lots of ports (microSD/SDXC, USB 2.0/3.0, Micro HDMI/Mini DisplayPort)
  • Full HD display (on the Pro model)
  • Full desktop-class OS and applications (on the Pro model)

But what about the questions:

Price: Surface RT will be priced similarly to competitive ARM tablets -- presumably 32GB for $600 and 64GB for $700. It can't be more, because iPad will win on price. I'm guessing that Microsoft comes in at $100 less at 32/$500 and 64/$600. But that's just a guess.

According to Microsoft Surface Pro will be priced similarly to Ultrabooks which probably means breaching the $1000 price point. And if you're paying Ultrabook money, why not buy an Ultrabook?

Availability: Surface RT will ship when Windows ships, presumably for the 2012 holiday shopping season, Surface Pro three months later in early 2013. We think.

Surface isn't going to catch the iPad and the App Store. Apple has a two-and-a-half year head start on Microsoft and a dominant position in the tablet market. There are over 170,000 native iPad apps (and over 550,000 total apps) in the App Store. Apple has 73 percent of the tablet market. These are huge numbers and a tough mountain to climb at this late stage.

If Google and Amazon can't catch the iPad, how can Microsoft expect to?

Obviously Microsoft doesn't expect to catch up to Apple right away, it's launching Surface to have a horse in the tablet race and to chip away at Apple's dominance. Surface will probably end up hurting Google and Amazon more than it will hurt Apple.

While it won't appeal to users that want selection (of apps) and simplicity, Surface definitely will appeal to a couple of market segments:

  • Windows administrators that require full Windows manageability and domain control
  • Business/corporate users with locked-down networks and policies
  • Windows application users looking for portability
  • Heavy Microsoft Office users

I'm guessing that we'll never see that mythical version of Microsoft Office for iOS that was leaked back in February. Microsoft's would be wise to keep mobile Office as its trump card. Need Word, Excel and PowerPoint? Get a Surface!

But even withholding Office for iOS can't stop the iOS juggernaut, there are a ton of equivalent productivity apps on the App Store, including Apple's own iWork suite, which read and write Office file formats. If anything, Surface will probably make the next generation iPad even better, hopefully the additional tablet competition from Redmond will force Apple to step up its game.


Topics: Microsoft, Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Apple fanboy logic (flawed)

    "iOS and the App Store have a two-plus year head start on Microsoft"

    As is so often the case, Apple fanboy logic readily fails under scrutiny.

    By this logic, Google never had a chance to succeed in web search.

    - Yahoo had several years' head start on Google.
    - Motorola had several years' head start on Apple.
    - Fax machines had several years' head start on email.
    - Etc

    Jason has "published six books on Apple" but perhaps could benefit from a more rounded view of the world. ;)
    Tim Acheson
    • in the same way

      The Pro surface has a 10 year lead in apps / programmes than the ipad

      550,000 apps vs 50million programmes? (rough guess)
      • Think again ..

        Sure windows has been around for 10+yrs, but the software for a win8 tablet (Metro interface)? really ?? THINK ABOUT IT ..
        MS is basically starting with Zippo ..
        • cloud

          The real business apps for WinRT will be Office starter and cloud based. There is no limitation as to which of the millions of Windows apps you can run when you are operating a terminal. You don't think all those iPads are limited to running applications written for IOS do you? As a developer I get a couple of companies a week calling to host our proprietary apps in the cloud. In that case you will be running a .NET SQL Server application, but no one cares at all what you are using for your terminal.

          People do that anyway using Splashtop. Why anyone would want to run an iPad with that small screen and a keyboard and Splashtop instead of a $400 desktop or laptop is not a question that I need answer. Whatever makes the end user happs is fine with me.
      • Good Luck with Desktop App's in Metro

        Good Luck with running those 1/2 mill Desktop App's under Metro
    • Apple King

      The fact is that no one is even close to competing with Apple. The numbers don't lie.

      I like the Surface but will not able to compete with Apple iPad. It is a great thing that MS comes out with this. Competition is the greatest thing.
      • numbers

        don't forget to compare worldwide numbers, not just US market numbers!
      • @IKE:)

        Ok, go ahead and compare the numbers worldwide for us for iOS apps and apps that will run on Windows RT.
    • Nothing to Worry About is a Bit Arrogant

      Microsoft has a long history of entering a market "late" and becoming the dominate player in that market.

      History shows that the early adopter of emerging technology just paves the road for the market leader.

      There is a progression of product evolution that has been repeated time and time again. It goes like this:

      The inventor
      The first practical implementation
      The first commercially successful player
      The dominate player that history remembers

      What the phrase? History is a reliable indicator of future outcome.
      Take a look at nearly any major pivotal invention that has had any impact on the future of mankind. The first commercially successful player becomes an unknown footnote in the history books.
      Are you familiar with the Sholes and Glidden Typewriter? Neither is anyone else. Sholes and Glidden was the first practical implementation or the typewriter.
      Every hear of an Underwood typewriter. Hugely successful typewriter, the first commercial success.
      Ask anyone today what is the most successful typewriter in the history of mankind?
      Answer: Not Underwood. The IBM Selectric.

      Let's try product a little more recent like the spreadsheet.
      Visicalc, first practical implementation of the spreadsheet.
      Apple owes a lot to Visicalc. Visicalc is THE product the lead to the Apple II being the first practical implementation of the PC. Lots of historical examples.
      Lotus 123, the first commercially successful spreadsheet.
      Microsoft Excel, very likely the only spreadsheet history will remember.

      Speaking of history, what is Apple known for? A pioneering player only to be crushed. I will give Apple the MP3 player as the Historic player.

      How will history remember Microsoft?
      Apple OS7 v. Windows
      Lotus 123 v. Excel
      Word Perfect v. Word
      dBase v. Access
      Novell Netware v. MS Server
      United States v. Microsoft, opps
      OS/2 v. NT
      Nintendo v. Xbox

      How will history remember Apple?
      Zune v. iPod
      Apple Mac v. IBM PC
      OS7 v. ...No. Future generation will never know about OS7
      Windows Phone v. iPhone? Nope. Too early to call. You cannot ignore that very reputable forecasters (e.g. IDC and Gartner) are currently predicting Microsoft will beat iPhone.

      Let's look at your comment on Apple's mere 2.5 year lead in Tablets.
      How much of a lead did Apple have on IBM in the PC market? How much of a lead did Apple have on Microsoft in the OS market? You cannot deny history.

      The App Store lead? What is the App Store? How will the App Store be remembered? If the App Store is remembered it will likely be as a failed communistic like tyrant that attempted to control developers and users.

      Apple got Google to drink the Kool-Aid evidenced by Google's Android Play something, oh no, sorry, it was Google Play. Will never make the history books.

      I ordered my iPad3 in a drunken stupor on Thursday morning March 8th at 4:02am.
      Thirty hours later I get an email from Job's and Company saying "We're happy to let you know that the items below are on their way to you."
      And it is being shipped Federal Express.
      It further said "We also included delivery estimates and tracking information next to your shipping address."
      Delivery date: Mar 16 2012
      Wait, what?? Was that Federal Express or FedEx Ground? Surely if it was Federal Express, the maximum shipping would be 2 days, Tuesday Mar 13. At this point I am a bit confused. Why did the receipt say Mar 16? OK just track it. Mar, 9 2012, Shipping information received. Delivery Mar 16 Same thing day after day. Serious resentment towards Apple begins. Why would a company purposely do such a pointless thing to a customer.

      I am self employed and work over 100 hours a week. It is unusual that it is still dark out when i go to bed. More often the sun has risen. Even though I am on the East Coast, on all my Websites I post my hours in Pacific time. 9am to 9pm. On the phone with a customer or prospect, I say Noon to Midnight.

      On D Day Mar 16 I am awoken way too early.
      I very much resent anyone responsilbe for waking me before noon. Here it sis, 9:30ish my signature is required for the iPad Delivery. Oh buggers! I sign and back to bed. Apple resentment intensifies.
      I am so excited about this blazing hot product that on this Friday I completely forgot its arrival until after 5pm.

      In my Apple induced upset state, I begin the acquisition of the coveted Apple ID.

      Too bad Apple, I actually read your privacy terms of service agreement.

      Apple is now forcing me to create the Apple ID. OK you want to play that game?

      New Email:
      New Name: Dr. NoneOf YourBusiness
      Address: Under the Boardwalk, Buttf**k WY
      Age: 78

      Is there anyone else out there that may also hold some resentment for being treated this way?

      One thing MS understands very well is the importance of developers.

      MS excels in software development. Apple: Objective C++. Enough said.

      Is it possible that developers may hold a grudge against apple for extorting 30% of their revenue?

      This is when I learn of Apple's user requirements. This is a first. This is not right. I have in my hands a product that, under Federal Law, I am the Owner. Yet I am not in control. Resentment towards Apple intensives.

      Is this how a company should treat their customers?

      Apple, Customer Service, Grade: F

      Point being as an Apple customer, I am not a happy camper and Apple is the cause of this condition.

      Back to Microsoft.

      MS has shown their marketing proficiency in OS/2 v. NT when up against an accomplished adversary.

      In a market where iPads are the hottest thing going, MS knows this product has to be fantastic. Their future existence, as a leading player, is riding on Mobile. This could be a pivotal product.

      MS has all the requisite experience, required such as OS, Networking, Browser, email, multimedia, gaming, and search. They have amassed an assemblage of apps over the years including video and photo editing and games. They have Office 365.

      Both Android and iPad have vulnerabilities. Androids product fragmentation, poor upgrade procedures, and instability are easy targets. The iPad lacks out of the box usability and poor I/O connectivity with their restrictive iTunes and nearly non-existent USB file transfer for anything other than photos. Need an app for that and that and that. At a minimum I would expect to have the capability to store a PDF document without downloading an app. I find iOS and Safari deficient (had an iPhone, have an iPad3). Android pathetic (have AT&T Galaxy S w/2.1 ) and no upgrade path.

      Apple has pizzazz. On the flip side Apple is a control freak.

      Google is out of their element. Clueless on hardware, and inept at OS. Android has an early market lead. Microsoft's favorite target.

      I have to conclude that Apple does indeed have something to be worried about.
      • stay away

        A couple of things - you are not welcome in WY if your only intent is to find a boardwalk (fat chance) under which to bugger and MS's bloated products crash constantly and run like - well, probably your bloated rear, just more buggery. If those are your example of improvement, why bother?
      • Apple Sauce

        I have to agree with this writer... I bought my first macbook pro and not wowed... I truly dislike Apple Corps my way or go buy another pc. If they price this tablet correctly Microsoft will win again.
      • Your examples are 15 years old.

        Recent history indicates MS has lost vision.
      • Such and interesting story, and you tell it...

        so well and long too.
      • Some people...

        complain for the sake of complaining.
      • Looks like someone forgot their meds this morning.

        [i]"MS has all the requisite experience[/i]" Their record in hardware is spotty at [b]best[/b], Xbox has been an expensive success, Zune was an expensive failure, and Kin was a [b]very[/b] expensive failure. You're right the failure of WP7 is [i]"[t]too early to call[/i]", but it's barely holding market share, if not declining-hardly confidence inspiring.

        Will the Surfaces fail? No one knows for sure yet (of course no one knows their price or ship date either), but I'll go on the record as stating that the Q2 FY '13 EDD numbers will be abysmal. Will it kill Microsoft, no, but in 3 years we'll look at Surface the way we look at Zune and Kin, not like we do at Xbox.
      • Obfuscation

        Wow, so many words that amount to so little. The simple truth is that you cannot even SEE a real surface. On Microsoft's site, they are using Photoshop images. You windows fan boys are being fooled.

        • And the tablets from the Press Release...

          And the tablets from the press release that reporters were playing on and taking videos of were photoshopped too? o_O

          with everyone having their hands on them and playing games on them that is truly the work of a great Photoshop artist.
          Alex Gonçalves
      • I think you need to take your meds !

        Nice rant. That's what happens when mom forget to give child his meds. Come back after you feel better and read what you wrote...feeling stupid? I thought so...
      • @Bruizer Yes the Examples are Old..

        because they are historical examples and present day example are not in the history books yet.

        I am not saying MS will be victorious, just Apple certainly could not possibly take the attitude "Don't Worry". If my company was in the MS cross hairs I would be afraid, very afraid.

        Has Microsoft screwed up in present day? Without a doubt. I will never upgrade from XP to another version of Windows. I have no use for Win7. I am a very small business, not an enterprise. I can not tolerate the necessary security I have to endure to use Win7.

        If I had an IT staff to resolve any issues, then Win7 is fine. For me it has been a major headache because my clients, being very small businesses, just get themselves in trouble with Win7 and support has increased.

        I have over 10,000 users and provide unlimited lifetime free support. And many of these users are using software I gave away for free. With XP no support was required. The problem is my older Win Apps were install in Programs Files along with the database tables. That does not work in Win7 and my client do not understand that until it's too late.
      • @bladerunner1963 It ain't going to happen?

        You may me correct. My point is there is still a chance you may be wrong.