DT Debate: Is the Microsoft Surface too little too late or will it strike while the iron’s hot?

Microsoft surface tablet debate blue screen of deathThis week Microsoft introduced us to the Surface tablet, it’s big effort to take on the iPad. Reactions have been wildly varied, from skeptical to inspired. It’s taken Microsoft long enough to jump into the tablet fray, and that led us to ask writers Jeffrey Van Camp and Andrew counts to ask… 

dt debate question
 

Jeff

 

Jeffrey Van CampMicrosoft is definitely late… more than two years late, if anyone’s counting, but it was also early… about 10 years early, to the party as well. Microsoft needs Windows 8 to succeed and it needs a Windows tablet to exist that people get excited about. Currently, the iPad may be the only tablet a lot of people get excited about. Android hasn’t firmly established itself and newcomers like Barnes & Noble, RIM, and Amazon have been entering the market on a fairly regular basis. I think any device challenging the iPad has an uphill climb, but the tablet market is definitely still in flux and the Surface tablet appears to fill a productivity niche that isn’t being met by most devices.

As long as Microsoft nails this device, it will have a chance.

 

Andrew

 

andrew-coutsI agree — if Microsoft nails this device, it has a good chance at carving out a new sector of the tablet market, one that occupies both a productive and entertainment space. But that’s a big if. Aside from its moves with Xbox, Microsoft has become notorious for screwing up a good thing. And the fact that it unveiled the Surface tablets without revealing many of their important details — namely, price and battery life — shows that there is still plenty of room for Redmond to mess this one up. Do the Surface tablets have potential? Absolutely. Unfortunately for Microsoft, potential is nothing without strong execution — something this once-untouchable technology giant has failed to deliver time and again.

As for being too late, I think not. The iPad clearly has the market in the palm of its hand. But it at least feels as though people are ready for something new, something that isn’t an iPad, that isn’t Apple. Whether or not the Surface is that thing remains to be seen. The kickstand is nifty and seems useful for a variety of reasons. The keyboard is a great touch that I’m sure many other tablet manufacturers are kicking themselves for not creating first. But when customers are faced with the choice of whether to pick up an iPad, a new Ultrabook, or a Surface, I am not yet convinced they’ll choose the latter.

 

Jeff

 

Don’t forget the Zune, which was a great MP3 player, but failed to take off in almost an identical situation (against the iPod). Still, Microsoft surprised us with this tablet and it appears to have all of its ducks in a row. It’s aiming for a market for those who really want it all — something super skinny like the iPad, but able to become a productivity machine as well. Is there room for screwing this up? Absolutely, it is Microsoft, after all, but what is the real risk here? The Surface will have the backing of countless other Windows 8 devices as well. It won’t be the only thing out there. Really, all Microsoft has to do is drum up some interest in Windows 8 and get the ball rolling for its partners. The Surface Tablet is a good way to show partners how to make a good Windows 8 tablet, much like Google has done with the Nexus devices and will do with its own Nexus tablet soon.

 

Andrew

 

If Microsoft’s goal with the Surface is simply to help promote Windows 8, then it’s already a success. From what I’ve seen of that operating system so far, it’s a bit of a Frankenstein, and until I saw the Surface, I wasn’t sure what kind of device would mesh well with Windows 8. Clearly, something that blurs the line between laptop and tablet makes the most sense. And Microsoft has delivered that with Surface.

But if we’re to judge the Surface as a device itself — not just a promotional tool — its chance of percolating through the layers of established competition seem far less certain. As I said before, I like the device. And I think people are ready for something other than an iPad or a cheap Android knock-off. But Google could easily blow the Surface out of the water when it reveals its own Android tablet. And all Apple really needs to do is to make a spiffy clip-on keyboard to render the Surface’s trump card moot.

I want the Surface to succeed — I really do. But there are currently too many variables, many of which lay outside Microsoft’s control, for me to put any serious bet on it surviving more than a year or two on the market before eventually fading away.

 

Jeff

 

Hey, if it lasts two years, I’d call that a success! Hardly anything lasts two years anymore. Except the Xbox, of course. That has lasted forever. Let’s hope Microsoft has figured out how to replicate that success.

 

Andrew

 

Yes, let’s hope….

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Gaming

Xbox gaming chief has sights set on improving Microsoft Store experience

Xbox chief Phil Spencer acknowledged that the Microsoft Store still has a ways to go to become a solid platform for PC gamers. Microsoft promised to work toward improving the frequently buggy experience with gamers in mind.
Android Army

Android battery life too short? Try using dark mode, Google says

Google confirmed at the 2018 Android Dev Summit that using dark mode will help extend an Android smartphone's battery life. Google also admitted its mistake of pushing for the usage of white in previous Material Design initiatives.
Computing

Your new PC may have shipped with an unsupported version of Windows 10

If you bought or are looking to buy a new Windows laptop or tablet this holiday season, be aware that it could have shipped with an unsupported operating system. The issue is caused by Microsoft pulling its October 2018 Update.
Computing

Bing, Windows search evolve into new, cross-platform Microsoft Search

Microsoft is upgrading its various search tools to provide more contextual help for those seeking it. Bing, Office, and Windows search will all be upgraded over the coming months to provide much more nuanced results.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for November 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Deals

The best iPad deals for November 2018

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for November 2018.
Mobile

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.
Deals

The best iPhone deals for November 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for November 2018.
Mobile

Google’s Gboard now uses A.I. to recommend GIFs based on your conversation

Google is bringing a new feature to Gboard that should make it better for those that regularly use GIFs and stickers. The feature essentially uses A.I. to recommend GIFs and stickers based on your conversation.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Computing

The Mac mini's price has crept into iMac territory. So how do they compare?

Apple announced a long-awaited update to the Mac mini. Thanks to the updated specs and increase in price, it's begun to creep up to the base model iMac. In this guide, we now put up the specs on the newest refreshed Mac mini against the…
Computing

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Deals

Here are the best Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa deals for Black Friday

Apple products are the most sought-after products for Black Friday, the leaked preview ads show what discounts retailers will have for the Apple Watch Series 3 and other smartwatches, such as the Fitbit Versa, this holiday season.