Microsoft Surface, the tablet running Windows 8 or Windows RT with the nifty keyboard cover, sure looks like it's gunning for Apple's iPad. But the more we hear about it, the more it seems Ballmer and company's new hardware play may be packing a BB gun rather than a bazooka.
Granted, there's a lot to like about the Surface -- the new Windows OS is intriguing, Gorilla Glass is great and that integrated stand is the kind of design ingenuity we'd expect from a company located a little further south on the Pacific coast.
But with so many unanswered questions around price, availability and other features, I'm left with a familiar youthful trepidation. Microsoft reminds me of the crazy uncle who often promises the coolest gifts, but can't be counted on to actually show up to your birthday party and deliver the goods. Here's four reasons why the Surface has me steeling against potential disappointment, and why Apple can probably breathe easy:
So, how much is it?
We heard at the Surface unveiling that we should expect the Windows RT version to be competitive with other top ARM tablets and the Windows 8 Pro version to be an Ultrabook competitor. Even mentioning the word Ultrabook at all should be a hint that Microsoft isn't looking to go head to head with Cupertino, but that RT version sure sounds like it's looking to bring the street fight to iTown, doesn't it?
And yet, The Next Web is reporting its sources say the RT Surface could be priced at $599 with the Pro version at $999. Charging more for a tablet running an OS that's untested and unfamiliar in the public's eye isn't the most lethal way of approaching the competition. Heck, even with more competitive pricing it's a tough battle. Remember the HP TouchPad, or the BlackBerry PlayBook? That makes two of us.
Forcing us to rely on Wi-Fi to connect any of our devices these days is becoming an increasingly antiquated notion. Hopefully Microsoft doesn't really believe that we'll only stream Netflix from the comfort of our couches -- what else is there to do when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic? And how do you expect us to opiate our children on long road trips without at least 3G access after they unlock all the Angry Birds levels in 20 minutes?
Computerworld performed a little analysis and determined that the Surface isn't likely to have an edge on the iPad in terms of battery life, either -- something else that's very helpful when it comes to occupying the kids in a pinch or re-enacting all those absurd commercials of people using their devices on a mountaintop somewhere that don't seem quite as absurd anymore (side note: mountaintops often get decent 3G coverage.)
Memo to Microsoft: You can't kill an iPad with a dead battery, even if your weapon is made of magic magnesium vapors or whatever.
It doesn't "just work"
Steve Jobs' constant claim that his products "just work" has held up to scrutiny for the most part over the years, whereas Microsoft is more likely to be associated with a blue screen of death. In typical fashion, an epic fail during the Surface demo earlier this week has since gone viral. You can watch below, and if you listen closely, you just might hear the laughter in the background thundering in from Cupertino.