The emperor had no clothes
Back on 5 June, Verge posted a story by Chris Ziegler on the inside story of the death of Palm and webOS. It’s fascinating to read about how closely designers and engineers at Apple, Palm and HP are connected.
In light of Microsoft’s Surface Keynote on the 18th of June, this passage caught my eye:
The demos at CES weren’t faked, but large swaths of critical functionality were still missing under the covers. “The emperor had no clothes,” one source told us. Even though Palm had left webOS’s Prima underpinnings in place to save time and effort, there was still a tremendous amount of work to do in order to get the Pre ready to ship, and everyone inside the company knew it. Palm made the controversial decision to prevent any members of the media from touching the phone after CES prior to launch, a move that raised eyebrows and led many to start asking questions about the company’s readiness.
You could easily replace ‘Palm’ and ‘webOS’ in the quote above with ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Windows 8.’ Danny Sullivan at Marketing Land wrote a great piece on the whole hands off aspect of Microsoft’s event too.
Now Microsoft and Palm are two very different companies so the death of one does not mean the death of the other is inevitable. The important take-away from this story is despite the hard work and creativity of talented people, your product can still come up a day late and a dollar short. Microsoft is up against the same Apple snowball Palm/HP was up against, except now that snowball is farther down the hill and it’s much much bigger.
Here’s another metaphor to throw into the mix: Apple has had 5 years to get up to the speed with iOS and the iPhone and the iPad. Apple didn’t have everything at launch in 2007 (like no GPS, no 3G, no video calls, poor camera, no multi-tasking, no third party applications …), but, as John Gruber wrote in Macworld, they kept iterating and iterating and iterating, cause that’s how Apple rolls down the consumer electronics highway. When you looked at them last, they were doing 60 mph in the slow lane, but now they’re way ahead of you, doing 110 mph in the fast lane.
So Microsoft has to sell something great this fall. Doing the speed limit ain’t going to cut it. They need to drop it into 4th gear and slam the accelerator when they hit the highway on-ramp and at least keep up with Apple. In truth though, they really need some hidden NO2 tanks in trunk.
Matt Bucanan wrote a review of the HP TouchPad and these were his final words:
You’re stepping on my dreams, HP. The TouchPad is so close, closer than anything else, to being good. But it’s also very, very far from it.
Microsoft is dangerously close to getting an identical product review with their Surface tablet. They best be sure it’s fully baked.