The "do not touch" Microsoft Surface touch tablets

The Microsoft Surface tablets look impressive, but only the touch experience counts.

The recent Microsoft Surface event where the folks from Redmond unveiled the first PC hardware to be produced directly by the firm impressed a lot of people. I count myself in that group, and I quickly realized I am the perfect target for the new Windows RT tablet.

Some of the reaction to the press event has been pretty negative given that Microsoft would not let attendees actually touch the tablets. Oh sure, some got to physically touch the demo units, but no one was allowed to actually use the things. Not the fancy keyboard covers either, which makes all impressions given of them useless.

It's understandable that Microsoft is being careful with the impressions these early version tablets give the public. The approach is standard for not-yet-released hardware for some companies. The problem with that approach is it doesn't speak very highly of what Microsoft feels about this new ground-breaking hardware.

The iPad proved to me that you have to use one to fully appreciate the fluid touch experience. Sexy hardware design aside, there have been too many touch tablets that have failed the user experience test in my book. The Microsoft Surface looks nice, but until folks get up close and personal that isn't an indicator of how good they will be as tablets.

I can't help but draw parallels between the refusal of Microsoft to let any press actually use the Surface at the big event to the HP TouchPad soiree held last year in San Francisco. I attended that event and like Microsoft more recently, HP would not let anybody hold a TouchPad and use it.

We now know that HP was trying to keep folks from discovering how unready for prime time the webOS system was at that time. The subsequent cold launch of the TouchPad led HP to cancel the entire webOS product line in just 45 days. HP knew something that attendees of the press event earlier that year didn't, that the product wasn't ready for the real world.

Let's hope that's not the case with Windows 8/RT and the Surface Tablets. They look so nice and have tremendous potential, but until I can use one that doesn't mean much. After all, the only person at the Microsoft Surface event who tried to use one had it crash during the demo.