Bill Gates is wrong

on July 5, 2012

In an interview with Charlie Rose earlier this week, Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates said it is “a strong possibility” that Apple may have to create a Surface-like device. Gates also said the introduction of Microsoft’s Surface tablet “is a seminal event.” I completely disagree on both counts.

By trying to combine what people do on their PC with what they want to do on a tablet, Microsoft feels it is offering the best of both worlds.The problem with that, as I’ve said before, is that people interact differently with a tablet than they do a computer. So, in reality, you don’t get the best of both worlds, but rather a mishmash of each.

The interaction people have with a touch device is something Apple understood early on and they embraced it. In doing so, they created a new way to interact with apps that includes using multi-finger gestures, as well as utilizing hardware components like accelerometers to enhance gaming.

Perhaps this isn’t what Microsoft had in mind for the Surface. It could be that Gates is referring to working on spreadsheets and word processing documents. This is why one model of the surface will allow you to use current desktop apps, like Office.

You can work with spreadsheets on the iPad too, using Apple’s iWork suite of apps. The major difference between the two is that with iWork on the iPad, you use your finger to interact with the app. You swipe, tap, touch and type all on the screen — exactly the way you would expect a touch app to work.

I’m not sure how Microsoft expects people to work with apps on the Surface. Desktop apps don’t work like touch apps, so the experience will undoubtedly be confusing. Some apps you swipe, others you using a stylus and still others you… do something else?

I still give Microsoft credit for not blindly following Apple into the tablet space, but I’m not convinced that this hybrid PC/Tablet model is the way to go.

I can see why Gates would consider the Surface such an important release. He’s betting the company on its success, and let’s face it, Microsoft hasn’t exactly been releasing successful products over the last 10 years.