By now you’ve already heard the debate about Microsoft’s newest development…Surface™. On the one hand, you have a lot of hype about the design and the features. On the other hand, you have the naysayers who harken back to the Microsoft ZUNE’s inability to compete with the iPod and speculate that Surface™ won’t do any better in challenging the iPad. In a situation like this, the only way to form an accurate opinion is to physically experience the technology – to actually hold it in your hand and see how it works. That’s why I am so glad that I was fortunate enough to be included in the invitation only presentation where Steve Ballmer and his team unveiled their newest project to the press.
Surface™ is a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop. While it’s only a first step, it may actually point the way toward the future of what mobile computing will become. It functions as both a touch screen tablet and a work-flow computer. To that end, it has a USB port that will make transfer of data effortless. Instead of being totally dependent upon apps, Surface™ will operate the complete Windows suite of software.
The cover opens into a full keyboard that includes directional arrow keys and a mouse pad. In spite of the fact that it is unbelievably thin, there are cooling vents on all four sides. The casing of the Surface uses a combination of materials and process to mold metal and deposit particles to create a finish that resembles a luxury watch. Thanks to the magnesium used in its construction, the casing parts are thinner than the typical credit card. The remarkable thing is that when you hold it in your hands and try to twist it from either side it does not have any give. The touch screen is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 2.0, which makes it scratch and crack resistant. The magnesium casing renders it exceptionally sturdy. If you want more detail, you can read about all the specifications at www.SURFACE.com.
Here’s why I think Surface™ is going to grab market share from the Apple iPad and become a must-have device. It does all of the things that an iPad does – but it goes further. Whereas Apple is adamant about the fact that the iPad is NOT a computer, Surface™ is all that and more. It can be used for both passive consumption and active creation of content. Perhaps the most important factor is that it runs all of the traditional software that most businesses – especially small businesses – use for their day to day operations. At a point in time where we are being multi-tasked to death, Surface™ offers complete connectivity to the office while you are at home or out in the field. This could be especially effective for working Moms, who often have to juggle flex-time positions with child care obligations. Trust me – been there, done that, wish I had a tool like this while I was doing it.
So the big question everyone’s asking is…why was the Microsoft Surface unveiled in Hollywood? My guess is that since we are the content creation capital of the world, it further emphasizes the idea that this machine is designed to be different from all the other tablets. The pro version – available 90 days after the initial release of the consumer version – will be capable of running production and post-production software. The ability to manage that kind of information with a tool that weighs less than 2 lbs. will offer a measure of convenience that can enhance the creative experience.
Surface™ isn’t available yet. Microsoft is being extremely coy about when it will be. My best guess would be that either the end of summer back-to-school shopping rush or “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving that signals the official start of the holiday shopping season) would be likely target dates for the launch. In the meantime, Microsoft sent out a warning shot that anyone thinking of getting a new iPad ought to consider waiting until they see the new Surface™. At the same time, Microsoft has covertly started the biggest focus group in the world. They can sit back and listen to the online and media chatter while addressing concerns that are raised and wish lists that are bandied about. In the meantime, I’ll be writing my letter to Santa. I want the pink one!