They’ve Surfaced.

Microsoft has announced their new tablet, the Surface.
No, not the multitouch coffee table they launched in 2008 (ooh look, they just changed the name to PixelSense on Wikipedia!), no the new competitor to the iPad. Complete with magnetically attached keyboard/cover. Well played Microsoft, well played.
A quick digression: Microsoft is like a Jedi-in-training. But one who’s been doing whippets all day. They’re watching Apple and learning the Force, but they’re fucking up everything in the process. Repurposing another product’s name? Launching on a Monday evening? In LA?
Let’s continue….
We’ll grab a few details from The Next Web’s coverage:

First let’s look at what Surface is. It’s a tablet form factor, but it has the guts of a PC, at least in its higher-end form. The lower-end version, with the ARM processor and running Windows RT, is going to be a niche item at best. The Pro version, which will run a full Windows 8 installation, is going to be more in line with what users are looking to buy.

Woah, woah, woah. Hold up. You’re selling to consumers. And you’re already complicated matters. Don’t you remember your Jedi training? Keep choices simple for people. Didn’t you learn anything from the whole Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate thing with Windows 7? C’mon, dude.
Sorry, let’s keep going…
From The Verge’s live blog, here’s Steve Ballmer spinning the story that Microsoft was always about hardware (?):
“It was always clear that what our software could do would require us to push hardware, sometimes where our partners hadn’t envisioned.”
“Our number 1 revenue product when I joined Microsoft was a hardware product. Let’s take a look back at the role of hardware at Microsoft.”
Wow. So let me get this straight. Apple has built the whole kit and kaboodle from Day 1. Microsoft has done only the software and established relationships with hardware companies to build the computers on which Windows has run for over 3 decades. What hardware companies? Dell, IBM, Compaq, Hewllitt-Packard, Acer, NEC, Samsung, Sony, Asus… and many, many more over the years (I’ll date myself – my friend down the street growing up had a Leading Edge computer running Windows). Now Microsoft is saying they’re always been a hardware company at heart? And you’re going to compete against your partners? Really? Balls, Ballmer. You got balls. Big, dumb, balls.
Ok, let’s forget the past. Microsoft’s Surface looks like it could be really good. When can I get one, what’s the battery life like and how much will it be? Oh, I see, you didn’t tell us any of that.
If we go back in time to 2006, I coincidentally wrote about a similar situation with, of all companies, Microsoft, and their announcement of the Zune. The Zune, like the (new) Surface was late to the game and we know how the Zune story ended.
Let’s hope Microsoft’s Surface fares better, but I ain’t betting on it.
Why? OK, let’s recap: Microsoft pre-announced a product with no specifications on battery life, ship date, or price and have built the hardware themselves despite a 30+ year history of focusing solely on software (their peripherals biz is chump change to their bottom line) while in the process, shunning companies who would normally be building the hardware for their Windows software.

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