The Surface and the iPad

on June 21, 2012

I have ridiculed companies like Samsung for simply copying Apple’s tablet strategy and for not showing any vision, so I’ll give Microsoft credit for at least coming out with some new ideas with the Microsoft Surface. However, I’m not sure it will work for them.

Microsoft has been in the tablet business for a long time with its partners and it has failed miserably. The company has tried to convince consumers that a tablet needed to be like a PC, but consumers didn’t buy it.

Apple on the other hand drew a line between the traditional laptop and tablet. The iPad is a touch device and apps are made so you can interact with it using your fingers and gestures. Apple contends that there is no need for a mouse with a tablet because your finger is the pointing instrument.

Just because Apple says this is the way it should, doesn’t mean it’s the law. However, consumers have clearly spoken by purchasing millions of iPads. The iPad is the type of device that people see fitting into their lifestyle.

From what I’ve seen, it seems to me that Microsoft is trying to do a similar type of dance with the Surface that it did with previous tablets. The company is trying to convince consumers that this device can be a computer and a tablet at the same time. Based on the sales of the iPad, I’m not sure that’s what consumers really want.

I’ve seen people argue that Windows now has the largest app library by default because you can use all of your Windows apps on the Surface. I don’t see that as a good thing.

Apps made for a desktop or laptop are not designed to work on a touch-enabled device. That just makes sense. Interacting with those apps on a tablet will be cumbersome and frustrating for users. I think that’s a given.

Of course, you always have the Surface’s stylus, but then you seem to be getting away from a touch-enabled device and going back to devices that were around years ago. That’s not a step forward in the industry, although it still may be for Microsoft.

It’s well known that Steve Jobs hated the stylus. He told Walter Isaacson about a Microsoft engineer who kept talking about a tablet years ago.

“But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead,” said Jobs.

I’m certainly not saying that Microsoft’s tablet offering is dead in the water — it’s much too early for that. But unlike some in the mainstream media, I’m definitely not ready to proclaim the Surface will overtake the iPad either.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the Surface because Microsoft wasn’t exactly forthcoming with details, so for now we play the waiting game.