As Surface hits stores in China, Ballmer talks it up while Apple boss calls it ‘compromised, confusing’

Thanks to the earth’s rotation and the sun’s rays and the time zones and the International Date Line and the general way in which the universe has organized itself, it’s consumers in China who will be among the first to get their hands on Microsoft’s new Surface tablet.

The brand new device, which marks Microsoft’s entry into an already crowded market, launches Friday, along with the Redmond-based company’s new Windows 8 operating system.


In an interview with the BBC this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described the new product launches as an “epic” moment for the company. “It’s right up there in the top two or three big moments, including Windows 95 and the launch of the IBM PC, and it really starts us on this new era of computing,” Ballmer said.

Asked about the Surface, Ballmer gave a perfectly worded answer that sounded like a voiceover for an ad, describing it as “the one device you need for work and for play, that you can just take with you; you can really do what you need to do for school or for your job, you can really enjoy movies, books, entertainment, reading, games, all in one thin, light package – there’ll be nothing like the Surface with Windows 8.”


Consumers in China will be among the first to discover if Ballmer’s words are baseless baloney or bang on the money, with many in the country about to tear the packaging off the new tablet in the next few hours.

IDG News reported “hundreds of buyers” lined up outside one particular Beijing electronics store overnight,

One guy waiting in line, Chen Shi, reiterated Ballmer’s comment that the device is for work as well as play. “The tablet supports more software features for office work, things that you would actually use,” he told IDG. “Basically, Microsoft is reinventing the tablet, because now people are used to using their tablets as toys, and only use them to play games. These tablets lack features to do work for the office.”


Of course, Microsoft is late to the game when it comes to tablets, with Apple’s iPad dominating the market since launch day in 2010, and other big-hitters such as Amazon and Google already in the business. Apple CEO Tim Cook wasted little time in throwing in a few choice comments about Microsoft’s new arrival, telling analysts during an earnings call Thursday that though he hadn’t yet had a chance to use it, he was getting the impression from reviews that Microsoft’s new tablet “is a fairly compromised, confusing product.” But he would say that, wouldn’t he.

It’s the opinions of ordinary consumers that really matter, and these will soon begin filling forums across the Web. Only then will we have a better idea if the Surface is going to sink or swim. Or simply be used as a skateboard.

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