Scratching the Surface

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 by Simon Morton

The Microsoft Surface has been eagerly awaited here at Eyeful Towers. We’ve held on to the hope that it will combine the best of Microsoft’s software ingenuity with the outright sexiness of the iPad and a USB port. So now that the great and the good have had a chance to run to run it round the block, it’s time to look at whether our dreams have come true.

Much of Apples success has been based on access to Apps and this is an area in which the Surface seems to be struggling. The stuff that already lives under the Microsoft umbrella is there and works well, Skype being an example. But most Apps will be developed by the same independent companies that currently do most of their business with Apple gadget owners. Developers will only invest in Apps for the Windows operating system if they see a valid return on investment, while many consumers will hold fire on buying a Surface until the Apps are available – resulting in a good old fashioned chicken and egg conundrum.

Many commentators are also critical of the level of touch screen sensitivity. But the Surface has a clever little keyboard (sadly an optional extra on cheaper models) so that’s ok – or is it? If the keyboard is the best way to interact with the Surface, is it still a bona fide tablet or just an anorexic laptop?

It would seem that Microsoft themselves are not entirely sure, with the more powerful Windows 8 Pro model (expected in about three months) being pitched as a rival to the MacBook Air.

The build quality has a reassuring solidity but I suspect that an errant piece of fluff or hair may be able to play havoc with the connectors. For those who wish it to be known that they are definitely not using an iPad the ‘clickety-click stand and connect’ theme tune will definitely make their point. But it’s a brave move by Microsoft because drawing attention to users makes it even more important that you’ve given them something that they’re proud to be seen with.

From a business perspective having fully loaded versions of the Office suite on a tablet is fantastic. Here at Eyeful we’ve blogged, begged and cajoled for this for a while but now we have it on the Surface does that mean that the iPad App is mothballed forever?

iPad sales in 2013 are expected to be around 142.8 million units, so unless the Surface really is a giant killer there will still be a lot of frustrated businesses.

And last but not least it does have a micro USB.

Microsoft have made much of the business potential of the Surface and if they can make a niche for themselves as the ‘serious’ competitor to the ‘stylish’ iPad, we may just have a fight on our hands.


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