Microsoft gave a fairly good imitation of Apple in debuting its Surface tablets. The event, held at an artsy Los Angeles studio space, was shrouded in mystery, and Microsoft executives were properly dressed down for the occasion.
The famously leaky company was mostly able to surprise the assembled press with the multicolored array of Surface tablets and ultrabooks. But Microsoft disregarded one key element that is part of Apple's show-and-tell script -- make the hardware real, available to the press on that day or before, and for customers soon thereafter.
CNET reviewer Eric Franklin was at the event and got to touch the Surface keyboard and screen, but for only a few brief moments. In the video above (and here), Eric gives his play-by-play of being taken into a room with several other journalists to examine the Surface, and his early assessment as to whether Microsoft has engineered a product that will be competitive with the iPad and Android devices.
Microsoft has created Surface buzz, but there are many more questions than answers as to exactly how Surface will stack up against the competition. The Surface looks like an interesting, and potentially compelling, product for the Window RT and Windows 8 software platforms, but given the hands-off posture, it's currently more like a concept than a reality.
Clearly, Microsoft's intent was to make a bold statement and freeze the market. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer basically said, "Don't bother buying iPads or Android tablets or ultrabooks, wait for our cool and snazzy Surfaces that will become available later this year (allegedly August) when Windows 8 launches."
Of course, unlike Apple, Microsoft isn't risking a sales fall-off for tablets and ultrabooks by pre-announcing the Surface. Manufacturers who build Windows-based ultrabooks can't be too pleased with the Surface pre-announcement. On the other hand, Microsoft has to be pleased that it has aroused more interest in Windows despite stepping on partner toes and showing off a product not quite ready for prime time.