Monday afternoon, in an art studio located in West Hollywood, Microsoft made a groundbreaking announcement. At 4:20 p.m., the company known mainly for its software programming, showcased its first entry into the tablet arena.
Surface, Microsoft’s new tablet, looks a lot like its competitors – with a few exceptions. To magnetically attach to the device, Microsoft created a one-of-a-kind cover which doubles as a full keyboard with touchpad. In addition, Surface is the first tablet to run on a desktop OS, namely Windows RT and Windows 8 (once released). On the rear, Surface also contains a built in kickstand made for stability.
Overall, Microsoft took a giant leap forward in an attempt to compete with companies like Apple and Google, but how will it fare in the market place? Here are the top 5 pros and cons about Microsoft’s new tablet, Surface, and their announcement, as well as comments from industry experts and those in the Twittersphere.
The positive aspects of Surface, and the majority of positive mentions on Twitter, involve the tablet’s several noteworthy features:
1) Magnetic Keyboard Cover
By far the most innovative aspect of Microsoft’s new tablet, Surface offers a magnetically attachable smart keyboard, which doubles as a cover. Consumers will be able to choose between a 3mm-thick Touch Cover, which functions as a full touch keyboard, or a 5mm-thick Type Cover, which includes a track pad; and thanks to a built-in accelerometer, they also power down when folded back as a cover.
The Surface keyboard is getting positive reviews on Twitter. “Smart keyboard is the real highlight of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet,” Syed Suffiyan tweeted Tuesday.
“I can get onboard with this detachable keyboard thing for future laptops. Microsoft is going in the right direction with this one,” Nina Chai tweeted.
A feature built into the back of Surface, the tablet’s kickstand bears some resemblance to the iPad 2’s foldable case – but in function only. Panos Panay, general manager of the products for Surface, was quoted in BusinessWeek as saying, “When it goes up, the kickstand makes a sound as crisp as the way a luxury door closes.”
Microsoft was clearly enthusiastic about the feature, mentioning it many times during the Monday afternoon event. According to TechRadar, this provision clearly shows Microsoft’s intention to make Surface a real iPad competitor. The hinges of the kickstand, an aspect extensively focused on by Panay, as well as two rubber feet help the tablet stand upright on its own.
Unlike most tablets, Surface features two digitizers: “One for touch, one for digital ink,” Microsoft said. According to Cory Gunter at Slash Gear, “all stylus or pen input is converted into digital ink and the new Surface tablet is extremely responsive and accurate.” He added that when Surface registers the close proximity of a stylus, it stops recognition of hand input.
In response to this latest technology, Erik Lamers, business development and marketing director of Avanade Netherlands, tweeted “iPad owners, pay attention: the Microsoft Surface also uses ‘digital ink’ for a stylus and comes with a magnetic pen.”
4) Windows OS
According to Alastair Leithead of the BBC, Surface was designed to be a smaller version of a Windows PC.
In that way, Surface is very unique. Rather than acting as a tablet, Surface will be more akin to a tablet sized desktop.
Clearly this could be the deciding factor for many iPad users who simply prefer Windows’ OS and have been waiting for something like this to become available. “[Steve] Jobs was wrong,” tweeted Gill Cleeren, a Microsoft Regional Director and Silverlight MVP based in Belgium. “We are not in the Post-PC era. We are in an era where a device is both a PC and a tablet.”
5) Resolution and HD Cameras
Listed among the tablet’s “key specs” on CNET are Surface’s 10.6-in ClearType HD Display, Full HD on the Surface Pro, and its front and rear facing HD cameras. In today’s market, where resolution is everything, and high definition is king, the fact that Microsoft didn’t wait to improve its screen is a good sign.
While the positive tended to focus on the product itself, negative comments made about Surface were much broader in focus:
1) Unannounced Pricing and Release Date
Microsoft did not reveal what Surface will cost and when it will be released, nor did it mention battery life. All of these details are potentially game changing.
On Twitter, many remarks from users revolved around the waiting game and coyness of Microsoft’s announcement. Even those optimistic about the new tablet are concerned about what the price will be.
2) Desktop Similarity
For some, the full attachable keyboard and desktop OS make this tablet seem more like a very small laptop than a tablet. James Spafford, Community Manager at Media Molecule, a U.K.-based game development firm, joked on Twitter about spotting someone testing Microsoft’s new tablet on the train, while posting a picture of someone using a Panasonic ToughBook.
“Surface also has a ‘full multi-touch keyboard’… but doesn’t that make it a laptop?” Tweeted Matt Garrahan, a Los Angeles correspondent with the Financial Times,.
Since Microsoft Surface appears to act more like a desktop than a tablet, there is some concern among Twitter users that it will be more susceptible to viruses than a normal tablet. “The one thing no one is mentioning about Surface [is] viruses. It’s running Windows 8, which means it’s going to be affected just like a PC,” tweeted The Skins Factory, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based design firm.
The plethora of unanswered questions regarding Surface’s network and connectivity continues to raise eyebrows and spark speculation about how well the product will run.
4) Internet Browser
“There’s only one problem with the Microsoft Surface Tablet,” tweeted blogger CyrisXD, “It comes with Internet Explorer.”
Similar to the iPhone and iPad’s exclusive ties with the Safari browser, many anticipate Microsoft’s Surface to exclusively feature Internet Explorer as its only viable browser. For many who can’t stand Internet Explorer, Surface’s exclusive connection to them could turn away potential customers.
“Microsoft Surface looked promising until I noticed the Internet Explorer icon in its taskbar,” Tweet @ysekand, a U.S.-based mobile developer.
Though the issue is not receiving much attention at the moment, one possible deciding factor in the success or failure of Surface is apps. The kinds of applications Surface will offer, and their compatibility, could have big ramifications.
Another possible complication with future Surface apps lies in the different versions of Windows being installed in the Surface and Surface Pro. “Surface-very cool looking! Kudos,” tweeted Amit Shetty, a product manager at Yahoo. “But if the apps the 2 versions (rt/pro) run are going to be different, then there will be problems.”