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6/22/2012
08:59 AM
George Ou
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Why Microsoft Must Stop the Surface Madness

BYTE contributor George Ou got blowback when he predicted Microsoft's Surface tablets would fail. Well, he's standing his ground. Hanging with the cool Mac guy is just going to alienate all the PC customers who have made Microsoft great.

I'm a PC, I'm a Mac
Hey, Microsoft, have you forgotten me? I'm a PC, the customer who actually loves his Windows computer. It wasn't long ago that you inundated me with "I'm a PC" ads that stood up to that smug fellow who called himself a Mac on TV.

Now, it seems that I'm no longer cool enough to hang with you because you're too busy trying to copy the guys who used to make fun of us. Oh, you can try to blame the editing, but you're embarrassing yourself with your new Surface tablets while betraying your business partners and your customers who all believed and invested in the PC "Wintel" ecosystem.

Supporters of Microsoft's Surface are giving me a lot of heat for calling the new Microsoft Surface products failures when I merely make some factual observations. They tell me that I should be content with the Metro App store and be content with a tablet lacking Windows x86 compatibility, which is the very essence of being a PC. But be careful of what you wish for, because if all that PC users wanted was the superior tablet with the dominant app store, they would have ditched Microsoft and bought an iPad long ago.

The market has been littered with the corpses of HP TouchPads, the RIM Playbook, and other overpriced or subpar Android devices slain by the mighty iPad. Despite the lessons history has shown us, Microsoft inexplicably is walking down that same path to ruin. Microsoft's Surface for Windows 8 RT tablet has more in common with a three-year-old iPad while lacking compatibility with the existing PC ecosystem: Windows apps and hardware.

The Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet, which is Windows compatible, will be sold at "competitive Ultrabook pricing." That means it will be too bulky and too expensive for a tablet. Its poor battery life means we will have to carry a bulky AC adapter and crawl around looking for an open electrical outlet. The failures of the Tablet PC should have taught Microsoft that mobility is crucial. The iPad succeeded where all the tablets before it failed simply by meeting battery life expectations and size requirements and ditching the easy-to-lose stylus.

What's unfortunate is that Microsoft is undermining its hardware partners who have already committed to buying Windows 8 in droves by confusing the message. The traditional PC makers apparently won't get the "Surface" branding, while at the same time they could be tarred by association if Surface leaves a lasting bad impression on consumers. Over 20 PC makers have committed to a hybrid design vastly superior to the iPad. These hybrid devices have a base that serves as a hard screen protector, a tactile keyboard, single-action open, a variable-angle display stand, and a second battery that doubles battery life. Instead of promoting the good design settled on by PC makers, Microsoft will submit two inferior designs that could overshadow the good design. Thanks to the Surface tablets, the picture for Windows 8 tablets now looks like thi:

  • Typical PC maker design = Windows 8 + Intel SoC = PC with mobility
  • Surface for Windows 8 RT = Windows 8 + ARM = Mobility without the PC
  • Surface for Windows 8 Pro = Windows 8 + Intel Notebook chip = PC without mobility

A PC with mobility is precisely what is needed to save the PC and usher it into the "PC plus" era and save it from the post PC era. Microsoft needs to stop pushing the choices of mobility without PC compatibility or PCs without the mobility.

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