Maybe you were exploring the nether reaches of a Venezuelan jungle yesterday and missed the news that Microsoft announced that they’re making a cool looking tablet called the Microsoft Surface for Windows RT.
Despite some huge holes in the announcement, some people like Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz have gone on to claim that Microsoft’s Surface just made the iPad and MacBook Air obsolete.
We’re actually kind of excited about the Surface and think it looks like an intriguing product, but saying that it’s better than the iPad and MacBook Air at this point is absolutely absurd.
The truth is that the Surface looks like a great piece of tech, but it’s all vapor at this point. There’s no real specs announced. There’s no price announced. There’s no release date announced. And the journalists who were at the event only got to play with the prototypes for mere minutes, and even then, without the Surface’s much hyped keyboard cover attached.
Apple’s been the only major player in the tablet space since the launch of the iPad, and without any strong competition, it’s likely that the iPad will coast along without needing major innovative changes to maintain marketshare. That’s boring. We want a fight that brings out the best in Apple, and the Surface might be the first tablet to give the iPad some serious competition, but it hasn’t even put on gloves and stepped in the ring yet.
We mean that literally. No one other than Ballmer and his minions know how well this new tablet works.
During last night’s announcement there were two very important pieces of information that Microsoft refused to provide to the public – pricing and release date. They also didn’t talk about battery life, processor speeds or whether Surface would come with 3G/4G, but pricing and release date are the most important because they allow us to gauge where the Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 fit in the spectrum of gadgetry, and how competitive it will be against the iPad or MacBook Air.
Even though Apple announced the original iPhone almost six months early, they still had pricing and a release date. If Surface doesn’t get released till late November and costs $700, that would make it considerably less attractive than if it launches in August for $450.
The release date of the Surface also determines how much time Apple has to adjust their plans for the next generation iPad. I doubt they’ll put a kickstand on the back of the next iPad, but maybe the success of the Surface could prompt them to move their connector slot so that the device docks in landscape mode and has a Smart Cover keyboard too. It could push them to make some big changes to iOS and OS X to be more competitive with Metro.
The succes of Surface might hinge on proper timing, but if Microsoft just revealed their cards too early and are six months away from launching, then Apple will be able to leap frog them three months after the Surface is released. Without a ship date and a price, the Surface isn’t a competitor to the iPad, least of all something that could make it obsolete.
Like the iPhone, the iPad, and the MacBook Air, the Surface requires a real world trial before it can be proclaimed better than anything, let alone declared to make other gadgets obsolete.
Even the HP TouchPad has a stronger claim to being an “iPad killer” at this moment because it’s a gadget that actually exists and has been used. Not a single writer on the web has used the Surface. It’s got a cool kickstand, sweet Smart Cover style keyboard, and the most innovate OS in years. But Microsoft didn’t let reporters try those things out at the event and that’s a huge hurdle that has be knocked down before we know how good it is.
Obsolescence is something that is derived from real world, tangible criteria. No one had really played with the iPhone in January 2007, yet pundits piled on top of each other claiming it would be a flop. How can anyone say that Surface is the Alpha and Omega of all tablets and laptops without anyone testing it? You can’t.
Falling in love with a new gadget is easy. It happens to us all the time. But making a mad rush to jump on stage and declare a vaporware product the greatest of all-time isn’t just silly, but makes you look as stupid as the stylus the Surface comes with.