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.

Computing

With Q#, Microsoft is throwing programmers the keys to quantum

Quantum computers aren’t yet practical, but Microsoft has already developed a programming language for them. Q# works inside Visual Studio, just like most other languages, and could offer a gateway into the weird world of quantum physics.
Gaming

Take control of your Xbox with these top-tier Xbox One gamepads

A number of different controllers are available on the Xbox One, from gamepads made by Microsoft, to third-party controllers loaded with special features. Here are the best you can buy.
Smart Home

Cortana and Alexa can now call each other as new relationship begins

Microsoft and Amazon announced a public preview of Cortana and Alexa integration. U.S. customers can now open Cortana with Alexa and vice versa. Basic functions such as calendars and shopping lists are available with the preview.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Mobile

How to find a lost phone, whether it's Android, iPhone, or any other kind

Need to know how to find a lost phone? Here, we’ll help you locate your lost or stolen phone using both native and third-party apps and services, whether it’s a smartphone or an older variety.
Computing

These 30 apps are absolutely essential for Mac lovers

There are literally hundreds of thousands of great software programs compatible with MacOS, but which should you download? Look no further than our list of the best Mac apps you can find for the latest MacOS and how they can help out your…
Photography

How iPhone photographers connect the world using only ‘basic’ gear

August 19 is World Photography Day, marking progress from the daguerreotype to the iPhone. But how do today's photographers create a connection to viewers using basic gear? We talked to iPhone photographers and influencers around the world…
Computing

New Apple MacBook may appear in September at $1,200

Apple may reveal new products in September including an entry-level 13-inch MacBook based on Intel’s seventh-generation processors. Apple originally intended these units to rely on Intel’s now-delayed 10nm “Cannon Lake” processors.
Mobile

AirDrop makes sending files to Apple devices easy -- here's how

Want to send files or photos to your friends when you're standing directly beside them? Instead of texting or emailing, why not learn how to use AirDrop? Here's everything you need to know about using AirDrop on both iOS and MacOS.
Deals

Save up to $900 with the best smartphone deals for August 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $900.
Computing

Style up your MacBook Air with one of these great cases or sleeves

Whether you’re looking for added protection or a stylish flourish, you’re in the right place for the best MacBook Air cases. We have form-hugging cases, luxurious covers and padded sleeves priced from $7 to $130. Happy shopping!
Apple

New patent suggests multiuser support could one day come to Siri

A new patent suggests that a major improvement may be in the works for Apple's digital assistant. Nothing has been confirmed, but Apple may soon work on implementing multiuser support for Siri.
Mobile

iPad battery explosion prompts Apple Store evacuation in Amsterdam

An iPad battery exploded in an Apple Store over the weekend, causing breathing issues for staff members, and requiring the fire brigade and an ambulance to attend. The incident took place in Amsterdam.
Mobile

Free yourself! How to unlock a phone from the icy hands of your wireless carrier

Do you want to know how to unlock a phone through your carrier or a third-party service like DoctorSIM? Regardless of which way you want to go, we've compiled a list of requirements and methods for doing so.