Ha. I’ve done this many times.
I’d love to know the companies who’ve figured out how to do seamless presentations using videos, screen-sharing and conference calls. There’s so many companies out there who describe themselves as ‘bleeding edge’ and ‘innovative’ but can’t figure out how to do a proper presentation with GoToMeeting and a telephone.
In my experience, there’s always a problem with dongles, Powerpoint crashes, stuttering video over GoToMeeting screen-sharing and people trying to figure out how to switch the monitor they want to share.
One of these days, someone’s going to figure this all out.
I want to check out the video of the Windows 8 Summit, but I when I try, I get to this screen:
Oh, Microsoft. You’re so cute with your Silverlight plug-in requirements. You just won’t give up, will you?
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.
Sorry if you’re getting overloaded on the Microsoft Surface posts, but I can’t not post on these things. Microsoft is shameless:
via Laughing Squid
Last night in the Microsoft Surface Keynote, during his attempt to convince us why Microsoft would be able to create great hardware products to run it’s software, Steve Ballmer explained how the #1 revenue source in 1980, the year he joined Microsoft, was a hardware device called Softcard. It’s around the 4:15 mark.
I Googled ‘Softcard’.
It turns out, Ballmer wasn’t lying. Softcard was Microsoft’s #1 revenue source in 1980. What he didn’t mention was that Softcard was a hardware device designed for the Apple II computer (via Wikipedia):
The Z-80 SoftCard was a plug-in card supplied by Microsoft for use with the Apple II personal computer, which did not have a Z-80 compatible processor and could not run CP/M. It had a Zilog Z80 CPU plus some 74LS00 series TTL chips to adapt that processor’s bus to the rather different bus system used in the Apple. The card was eventually renamed the Microsoft SoftCard.
How bout that.
A good observation by Darren at Engadget on Steve Ballmer’s appearance during the Surface Keynote last night:
Finally, there’s passion. Steve Ballmer didn’t smile much (if at all) while introducing this product range. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t he be amped about this thing if it’s truly engineered to change the game? Part of me wonders how many consumers will still be around to care about this when it ships in six months. People loved Palm… but they didn’t love ’em enough to wait.
Since Microsoft is copying Apple’s integrated business model (and magnetic covers) it’s only fair to compare the the enthusiasm with which Steve Jobs (an even Tim Cook to an extent) presented new products to the complete lack of of enthusiasm showcased by big Ballmer.
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While their hosting is solid their great customer service seals the deal for me. ‘Really Helpful Geeks’ is how I would describe them. Like the people at Apple’s Genius Bar, but without the chip on their shoulders.
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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?
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.