How the tech press reacted to Microsoft Surface

How the tech press reacted to Microsoft Surface

Summary: If Microsoft's goal with its surprise announcement on Monday, June 18, was to get the attention of the press, consider it mission accomplished. The company's controversial announcement was scrutinized, analyzed, dissected, and critiqued by just about every slice of the tech press. Even the business press got in on the act.Here's a summary of the week's coverage.

TOPICS: Microsoft

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  • With Surface Tablet, Microsoft Takes On Apple but Mimics Google

    But the Surface announcement raises as many question as it answers. And though it’s pretty clear that Apple and its iPad are the target of this product, Microsoft is taking a decidedly non-Apple approach to its design and creation.

    Virtually everything about the Surface tablet is bizarre, even its name, which was previously used for a lumbering series of smart tables—yes, tables, not tablets—that have been unceremoniously recast as PixelSense. But what many on-site reports from the day of the launch didn’t care to mention is perhaps the most bizarre bit of all: The Surface tablet doesn’t even exist. It’s vaporware.

    The devices that Microsoft showed off earlier this week weren’t real; they were simply prototypes. And anyone claiming to have gotten “hands-on” time with a Surface tablet was exaggerating, at best: No one was allowed to touch a working prototype, so those typing videos occurred on dead pieces of hardware without a working screen.

    It's worth noting Thurrott skipped the announcement, so his reaction is based on secondhand accounts and viewing the video of the announcement. It's mostly a list of questions, interspersed with some sharp jabs. Given his generally pro-Microsoft leanings, it's curiously dismissive.

    One factual correction: The machines shown at the Monday event were not prototypes. Microsoft's engineers probably built and tested hundreds of prototypes over the past three years as they refined the technologies in Surface. What Microsoft showed off on Monday represents the results of all those tests from all those prototypes. The Surface designs we saw are identical to the final product that will ship later this year. It might be more accurate to call them engineering samples.

  • Why Microsoft's Surface Tablet Should Shame the PC Industry

    This is a perceptive column from an experienced Microsoft watcher:

    Let’s be clear, though: Microsoft making hardware is not a natural action. It’s what the company does in times of desperation. With the release of Windows 8 looming, Microsoft was indeed desperate for a hardware company to do something to blunt Apple’s runaway tablet machine. The Surface tablet represents an indictment of the entire PC and device industry, which has stood by for a couple of years trying to mimic Apple with a parade of hapless, copycat products.

    Rather than complaining, PC makers ought to take note of what Microsoft has produced. It has one tablet—a 9 mm thick, 1.5 pounder—that will run on low-power ARM chips and arrive around October. The black device has beautiful, beveled edges; its shell is made of what Microsoft calls vapor-deposited magnesium, or VaporMg. (Brushed aluminum is so last year, Apple.) It also has a built-in kickstand. Best of all, the device comes with a cover that locks firmly in place, unlike Apple’s flimsy iPad protector, and which functions as a proper keyboard. Both the kickstand and cover-cum-keyboard seem such obvious ideas now that we’ve seen them, yet the great army of PC makers failed to think up anything so clever over the past two years.

    More than any other observer, Vance really captures the tone of the event, with details about the human participants that are lacking in the more gear-focused tech press.

  • Microsoft's Not Competing With the iPad — Not Entirely

    Fairly generic commentary:

    Apple’s direction is clear on the iPad. Sure, there are keyboards you can buy and other accessories that will sort of turn it into a Frankenbook, but you don’t get the impression that the company really buys into that sort of thinking. “This is a touchscreen device,” the company seems to say. “It’s super at things that touchscreens are super at. If you’re more interested in a computing environment, may we direct your attention to these lovely laptops we have over here.”

    See, therein lies the difference. Last week, Apple announced some new laptops. This week, Microsoft announced something that it hopes can replace some laptops.

    Don't expect any opinions in this post that is so fair and balanced it seems afraid to answer a single question it raises.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • mag vaporware

    Paul took the vapor deposit shell of liquid metal a little too literal. What paul forgot is that vapor condenses and solidifies thus making this thing, not vaporware but HARDware.
    • I thought the same thing as the writer

      I mean right in the damn PICTURE I saw of it, it said "Vapor (mg) tm Case" and translated that as "VaporWare."
      (See ) What with the size of that thing, it looks like a table sized device (which they have produced and no one wants one) and not a tablet. Renaming this tablet they'll never produce for something in production that no one wants, is, in my opinion, a bad move.
      My first thought was, here goes the Courier tablet all over again: (April, 2010)
      "Microsoft has unceremoniously cancelled development of its folding, two-screen prototype tablet known as Courier...." At the time, Engadget's Joshua Topolsky noted it was "hard to kill something" that never lived.
      Now, who wouldn't think this thing will never see the light of production?
  • Paul is full of vapor

    Clearly, Mr. Thurrot is pissed off because he choose not to go the event. And is report of surface is full of errors. The guy thinks Vapor Mag is the device cover/keyboard! Unbelievable!
    • Irony...

      ... is defined by how you choose this way to comment on is errors ;)
  • Paul thinks this is vaporware?

    How? I think Microsoft would have a riot on their hands from consumers and OEMs alike if they were to pull away from selling it.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Yes, there are limits. This has made news now.

      If Microsoft for some bizarre reason dumped tis device at the last minute before its scheduled release... well, its probably the last time for some time that anyone would give them anytime.

      This actually has made some news. Everything in life has its limits, for Microsoft to turn this into vaporware it would have to be for some reasoning not of their fault or they would be at best a laughing stock. How would they ever get the press excited about anything again.

      There are great limitations on promoting vaporware, this crosses the limit and I have to believe its going to be nothing like vaporware.

      Some around here may or may not recall when AMD was kicking Intel's butt before the Conroe chips came out, and then the first talk of what the Conroe chips were and what they could do began and many loud and proud AMD fans called vaporware on that, I just could never believe that Intel would be allowed to cross the vaporware line and ever live it down, I had to believe Conroe would soon see the full light of day. It did.

      Mind you, even when the first Conroe chips were released for some public testing there where still a lot of the same goofs still crying "vaporware!!".

      Just because you have some self interested squabble about a specific company its hardly worth your while to make ludicrous claims like "vaporware" when common sense reality tells you that not likely thee case at all given the circumstances.
  • Don't trust Paul Thurrott anymore

    I had a lot of respect for his MS scoops and analysis. But with this single rant of an article, Paul has lost all his credibility in my eyes. Don't know what pissed off Paul? Was he not invited - probably because he pulled a "Wikileaks" on Microsoft with all the insider information?
  • Perhaps I don't see things the way pundits do

    No one has written anything close to what I came away from that video. Of course, the likeliest explanation is that I'm all wrong:

    1) Why name it Surface?
    - Well, the original Surface was all multi-touchy, etc and set the bar for an innovative touch-based user interface. However, no one outside the tech industry knows that. What was more important is that Microsoft owns the Surface name and didn't need to file any paperwork before the big reveal to use it.

    2) Microsoft producing hardware and getting supply-chain, learning curve costs, etc just right? Impossible
    - Huh? Microsoft has been producing mice and keyboards forever (take a look at some of their new mice, they are both beautiful and amazing to look at). They've also been producing XBoxes for nearly a decade. The initial XBox was pretty much a white-label PC squished into a black box. But the XBox 360 was engineered/designed/etc. Over the years, the design team has gone through a steep hardware "learning curve" sucking costs out of that box. More importantly, MSFT screwed the pooch with the RRoD debacle - Microsoft is *really* good at learning from mistakes. Expect much better execution with this.

    3) Competing with your best customers is weird.
    - Yup. And Microsoft works hard to coddle its OEMs - MSFT knows where the money comes from. That said, Microsoft is very good competing with its customers; it does it all the time. Think about it, just about every one of its main competitors (except Apple) is a Microsoft customer or partner (remember Google's phishing issues in China - they were running XP and IE6 on PCs (why I don't know)). When I worked at Microsoft, I spent a week at Oracle once talking to their db engine team about how the .NET Framework worked internally (this was while the SQL team was working to embed the framework in SQL Server) - that was very weird, but MSFT does it all the time.

    4) They should have pulled an Apple - had the big announcement and then "oh, and one more thing, it goes on sale on July 1st"
    - Huh? The iPad was announced in January 2010 and shipped in April - but by that time, Apple had their manufacturing and channel chops all polished up from the iPod and iPhone. The original iPhone was announced at the beginning of January 2007 and shipped at the very end of June. You can't keep absolute secrecy around a brand new product (and, in the case of Surface and the iPhone, a new product category) and ship the very next day. Someone needs to get IP filings done, build a whole bunch of them, negociate with the channel, stock the channel, and create an advertising campaign, etc. Do you really think that Microsoft could have been talking to Best Buy or Target and kept this a secret.

    5) It will only be sold in Microsoft stores and in Microsoft's on-line store
    - Again, that comes back to secrecy. The only stores that Microsoft has talked to are those run by folks with that carry a Microsoft blue badge and can be sworn to secrecy. Now that the name and the specs have been released, I expect Microsoft to be talking to its regular hardware channel partners (BBuy, Frys, Target, Walmart, etc) about getting a wide channel ready for launch.

    Finally,... Everyone says "Oh, even Sinofsky had to deal with a Surface crashing during his demo". I played and replayed that portion of the video over and over. It looks to me like he had a flakely driver (and/or piece of hardware) that prevented him from swiping in the charms. It was pre-release software, running on early drivers and engineering sample hardware. Stuff happens.
    • hmmm.

      All I see is a list of excuses...

      Point 4... But they couldn't because it is not ready. The only reason for them to do this was an attempt to spoil whatever Google have coming next week.

      Point 5... If they were going to open up distribution then they would have said so. At the moment it looks like they are aiming low and trying to build some kind of Apple-like buzz with queues by having it only available in a small number of outlets.

      Your Final point. The point is that the show was under-rehearsed to the point of madness. Ever seen an Apple presentation from the last 15 years that used an Autocue? Ever seen a presentation from any company that was just reiterating the talking points from an Apple launch? Did Microsoft really think that no one had actually seen Apple's iPad launch?
      • Sure, but

        Point 4: My guess is that on some project management chart somewhere in Redmond, the next step involves greatly widening the circle of folks who would have to know about the Surface. Sure, it's not finished - you aren't going to get it completely finished and then spend the next 4 months discussing it with partners, filling the channel, etc. They talked about it because it made sense to do it.

        On Point 5: (which is related to point 4). If they wanted to have absolute secrecy, they couldn't be talking to retail partners. Those folks are all sales and marketing folks and impossible to keep quiet. I suppose they could have said something like "we expect many of our existing retail partners will be selling this", but they couldn't name any - the president of Best Buy would be a little pissed off if the first he had heard of this was that he was going to be selling it.

        There was more secrecy around this than there was around the iPhone when it was announced. I remember the run-up to that announcement. Everyone seemed to know it was a phone, but there was a huge number of rumors as to what it would look like, what it would do, etc. And, then, it took Apple nearly 6 months to get it to retail.

        The demo gods are not kind. Demo-ing anything can be tricky. Demo-ing prerelease stuff requires a steely nerver. Sinofsky did a fairly good job of recovering. However, if he hadn't seemed so rushed, and he said something light like "I think this other one will do a better job at showing this", it wouldn't have been such a big thing. Stuff happens
      • Point 4

        Ha, and now here we are a few days later and Google announced nothing. A 7" tablet that runs ginger ice cream jelly beans, talk about a non event.
  • Better Keyboard?

    Laser Virtual Keyboard, wouldn't that be cool to put the tablet on its stand and the laser is built into the tablet so that it shines down and in front for typing.
  • Desapointing comment from Paul Thurott :/

    Desapointing comment from Paul Thurott :/
  • pathetic writers

    If you make such comments about a product being vaporware and such but you were never at the event to see it with your own eyes first hand, that pretty much puts your journalistic integrity in the toilet for everything you had written and everything you will write.

    Mind as well say the book catcher in the rye is about the bread industry. Book cover, judging, you get my drift. Good job.

    Loving your devices from one manufacturer does not mean you are require to hate another in delirious fashion.
  • Take OSS Revenge Lenovo!

    Maybe now that MS is competing with its own customers (which is different from making keyboards and mice) more of them are going to bundle Ubuntu with their hardware.
  • Sparking debate is good!

    Wow! You guys are brutal on Paul Thurott. Right or wrong, he has succeeded in promoting a lively debate. From a journalistic standpoint he hasn't done anything any different than a hosts of reporters that, in the absence of factual information, hasn't substituted opinion and conjecture, to pump up a weak story and thus, extend its relevance.

    People are passionate about tech, and that's a good thing. The world, at large, doesn't always know how to interpret an event, hardware, or software and its impact on our daily lives. I, myself, have been intimately involved in the tech industry for thirty-plus years, and my predictions have often missed the mark completely on more than one occasion.

    Still, give the consumer some credit. They will wade through the bullshit quite handily in the end, voting with their wallet. If the "Surface" has deficits, they will most certainly be revealed in good time. Even Microsoft can't afford too many debacles, such as Windows Vista! And as pointed out in an earlier post, they do tend to learn the hard lessons from history.
  • I think MS is also firing a warning shot across the bow...

    ...of the OEM's. I think Microsoft is taking a good hard look at how the PC manufacturers have been doing an awful lot less then they should have been doing to promote the Windows/PC branding that they should have been doing more effectively in the past.

    I honestly think Microsoft has looked at the landscape of the computing marketplace lately and asked themselves why doesn't the public at large understand Windows importance in computing generally as they seem to understand Apples importance in the gadget industry. The OEM's dont do a whole lot to promote Windows itself, they mostly slap the Windows sticker on the front and mention Windows as a blurb in a commercial for their products...if they make a commercial. It seems like Apple is the only one advertising high tech devices over the last couple years.

    Further, Microsoft could not afford the OEM's to take the same kind of half baked approach to Windows 8 and tablets they have taken in the past with other things. It may not actually bee "now or never", but its absolutly "now or a completly blown oppertunity" and thats at least the situation.

    The Surface is a good iidea for Microsoft generally, and if the OEM's understand the writing on the wall they will perhaps pull to attention a little better and get with the game plan that will in the long run probably attract more customers who may be ready to continue on for years to come with Windows instead of considering the alternatives that will become ever more present.
  • Thurott is getting more bizarre by the day

    Does he honestly think we don't know the Surface devices were prototypes? And he's mistaken us for idiots.
  • Thanks, Ed... well done

    I took the time to go through all the slides and I thank you for assembling these opinions and comments.

    In light of Tech Radar's hands-on review, we can readily dismiss all the Appleites who suggest vaporware (, and, instead, can read the opinions of reviewers who take the time to look beyond petty loyalties.

    I realize you might be a bit pro-Windows/MSoft, but, what the hell, MSoft owns the market and those who thought they are just lumbering bunch of boobs can now take notice and watch the next few months unfurl.

    It's definitely going to be exciting.