In the last half of the movie The Graduate, Benjamin, played by a young Dustin Hoffman, tells his parents he’s marrying Elaine Robinson—the daughter of the older woman he’s been having an affair with. Ben’s parents excitedly suggest they call the Robinsons to celebrate. Ben matter-of-factly tells them Elaine doesn’t yet know of his intentions and that he’s driving to her place in Berkley to ask her. He even acknowledges Elaine doesn’t like him very much.
Upon hearing this Ben’s dad confesses, “Ben, this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.”
To which Ben naively responds, “Oh, it’s not. It’s completely baked. It’s a decision I’ve made.”
The movie doesn’t quite end horribly, but we’re left with the impression that their future isn’t certain either. What we do know is Ben could have handled things much better and he didn’t.
After watching the whole Microsoft Surface keynote and letting it marinate in my head I’m realizing that despite all of Microsoft’s good intentions and motivations for making a tablet computer, their picture is incomplete. Yes, the cues they took from Apple were smart. From the integrated approach to software and hardware to their presentation style, the student has definitely been learning from the teacher.
First, the hardware. It’s uncertain how many (if any) of Microsoft’s hardware partners knew this product was coming: a product being built by Microsoft, not by them. Ballsy move. It’ll be interesting to see what the hardware partners think about this move. It’s like going into an auto body shop before a race, installing all of the best modifications on your car, then leaving the scraps for all the other drivers, but asking them all to race you. Because it’ll be “fun.” So the hardware looks great. Sure they copied Apple’s Smart Cover, but one-upped them by turning the cover into a super-thin keyboard (I personally don’t find this feature the game-changer many in the tech press do, but that’s for another post).
But the solid hardware isn’t what has me perplexed. It’s the complete lack of software demonstrations. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Here’s a company that has made billions of dollars selling software for over 30 years, and when it comes time to debut the device launching them into the future, they don’t bother to allocate even a few minutes to showing off how well software runs on it? No games. No movies. No software. All we got was a 2 second glimpse of a custom Netflix application and a glitchy Internet Explorer. What about the ecosystem? The companies and people outside of Microsoft? What about getting a bunch (hell, even a few) developers and content providers in early on so you have great things to showcase on your product?
Microsoft forgot the part where you show everyone how fun it is to use their device. They forgot to show how it fits into peoples’ lives. The first thing Steve Jobs did after presenting the iPad was to sit down and start playing with it. He opens up web sites, plays movies, checks email.
All Microsoft did was storm into a wedding to steal the bride without proving himself to her and then asked her for blind trust.
To me this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.