At 06:30 Helsinki time my alarm clock went off. With one eye open I pulled up Techmeme to see what the internet had to say about whatever Microsoft announced while I was asleep. Apparently they unveiled a pair of tablets, one called Surface, the other called Surface Pro. The former has an NVIDIA Tegra processor inside, the latter uses a traditional x86 chip from Intel. Both have a 10.6 inch 16:9 display, with the Intel version pumping out full 1080p, while the ARM version only does 1366 x 768. I wish I could tell you how much these devices cost and when they’ll be available, but that wasn’t discussed.
So what do I think? It’s hard to tell you anything concrete since I’m basing my opinions off a 64 second YouTube video and two articles from my favorite journalists covering the Microsoft beat: Mary-Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott. But my initial reaction is that Surface is great. Microsoft, for all intents and purposes, copied Google’s Nexus program. For those who don’t know what that is, every year Google teams up with a smartphone maker and creates a device that runs the latest version of Android exactly as Google intended it to run. HTC made the first one, the Nexus One, and then Samsung made the next two, the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus.
How many of the hundreds of millions of Android devices out on the market are Nexus devices? Very few. How many of the next hundreds of millions of Windows PCs that will be sold over next year or two be Surface tablets? Very few. The Nexus wasn’t made to compete with partners, it was to inspire partners to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Surface does the same thing.
When HP or ASUS launch an ultrabook that looks exactly like an Apple MacBook Air, yet said machine run Windows 7, how do you think that makes Microsoft feel? Surface is Microsoft’s way of showing the companies they do business with that this is what they should strive to achieve. The unique hardware design of Surface, coupled with some mighty impressive looking accessories, shouldn’t be seen by Lenovo, Samsung, and Acer as a threat. They should be viewed as starting points for the discussion around the next step in design.
Can anyone tell me why this is a bad thing?
Update: Good counterpoint:
When comparing #nexus and #surface remember google doesn’t charge licensees for software. Microsoft does. Big difference.
— Michael Gartenberg (@Gartenberg) June 19, 2012