The Surface will never succeed. But can it succeed?
I wrote this as a reply in another thread and edited it a bit to fit its own thread. But basically, I think Microsoft is going about 'PC+' all wrong. I think their definition of 'PC+' is misguided and tinged by fear. But I think there's some value to the idea of 'PC+' if Microsoft gains the balls to follow through on their original intent.
It seems to me that there are two type of people who exist when it comes to looking at the iPad, judging it, and wondering about its success.
1. There are those folk who believe that the iPad succeeded in spite of its _supposed_ flaws (lack of SD cards, whatever else bull legacy folks like to bring up).
These people fundamentally believe that the iPad will fail one day when another product is launched that includes those features. Of course they changed the requirement of their beliefs as those products launched. Soon they required that the product has a Tablet UI (post first Galaxy Tablet). Then that the product have comparable hardware (post Asus Transformer, a500, etc). And so on.
But the fundamental belief is the same. To beat the iPad, you use its _supposed_ flaws against it. Which is a fair enough belief in itself (I'm not saying it can't work on the software side), but since the original iPad, the most popular and consistent supposed flaws have been lack of a SD cards, USB port, and other *PC* features.
This is such a weird freaking idea. It's one born of... laziness. A lack of creativity in the believer's head.
I mean in what world does someone assume that something completely and utterly new must have the features of a completely and utterly different product?
SD cards slots and USB ports have been and maybe even today are valuable to PCs. But what the ***k does that have to do with tablets? Why in your brain and that of Microsoft and their/Android OEMs makes that a belief?
The fact is, no tablet with an SD card slot has ever been a mainstream success. EVER.
So where the hell is this demand for SD cards you folks keep talking about?
The problem lies with you folks who can't or won't accept that there are new computing devices in our lives which don't build off of the PCs that you know and love, but are completely different devices.
The iPad is not an evolution of the PC. Successful tablets (of which there is only one, the Fire) are not an evolution of a PC. They do some similar things by coicendence. And then there's Angry Birds.
They do not build off the legacy. Windows Tablet fanfolk want it to be so. Microsoft wants it to be so. But they simply don't.
2. There are those who believe that the iPad has succeeded because it's an altogether new device with a completely new way of interaction that makes carriying out new and some old tasks much easier than the alternatives.
I'm one of those. We're the reasonable, intelligent, non foolish group. We're the 30+ million who buy iPads every quarter. We still have our PCs and Macs for other tasks, but we accept the idea of new products that aren't evolutions of old products, but are new innovations in the same vein as those old products once we're.
Now to finish up this side rant, I will say this. I was able to articulate these views a few days ago. And as I did so, I realized a simple fact.
That if my views are true (and they are), that the Surface will NEVER be a threat to the iPad. Never ever ever. Because it's simply not the same thing. It doesn't attempt to do the same things an iPad does. A Fire attempts to do the same thing. So do Android tablets as of today. These may one day become threats to the iPad if they satisfy users in the same way an iPad does. But never the Surface, with its goals as-is.
But with this new realization, I also realized that the iPad isn't a threat to the Surface... That the iPad doesn't attempt to evolve the Mac paradigm into touchscreen tablet form. That it's goals are different than what that evolution would mean.
The Surface and its like are continuations of the Tablet PC. The first Tablet PCs had desktop operating systems. Over time, they added Touch UIs, but have kept the desktop operating system. The tablet PC of today is the Surface and its kin.
Now I could mention the fact that Tablet PCs have never succeeded. That Steve Jobs and Apple cracked the idea of a large screened touch oriented device, as shown in Sci-Fi throughout the previous decades, by ignoring PCs and Macs altogether.
But there's another realization. And this is one that may give you thirsty Microsoft fans dying of thirst in Death Valley an Aquafina bottle.
And that's the idea that maybe the reason the Surface and its kin have been failures is because they're designed to compete against the iPad. And that maybe they could be a success if they fully focused on continuing the PC.
Yes, Microsoft says the Surface is a PC+ device. Which everyone has taken to mean that it's basically part of your PC, an accessory so to speak. But they sure don't act like it because they show it competing against the iPad. Which is why we Apple folk laugh at them.
But what if Microost is simply confused? What if there is merit to the idea of PC+, if you change the definition from 'tablet as part of your PC' to 'evolution of the PC'? What if Microsoft were to focus on the Surface and its like as evolutions of the PC?
What would be the implications of that?
It would mean that the way they've gone about it is all wrong. That because of the iPad, they released a weak PC so they could get the hardware to around $500. That because of the iPad, they have slowed their progress on the desktop side of things in focusing on just Metro. That because of the iPad, they attempt the same type of iPad like advertisement.
It's long been a belief that Microsoft has been making fear based decisions. But what if they stopped doing that? What if they started looking at their future as not competing against altogether new products like the iPad and Fire, but as continuining the PC? Oh they say they're doing that, but they're not and I think they're just confused themselves.
So with that new thought, how would Microsoft go about fixing it?
Well, let's look at PCs. The cheap Windows laptops we have today were once, just some years ago, top of the line in performance. In other words, the Windows PC market works a lot like the car market. The best features are added at the top of the range, and they trickle down over time into Kias and so on.
So instead of competing against the iPad, maybe what Microsoft should have done is create a powerful hybrid tablet-laptop. One that could never run on ARM. One that needs the best Intel chip. One that requires a keyboard for some tasks. And yes, one that costs $2000+.
Now one of your obvious reactions is 'Um, they did some of that'. Except they didn't. At all. What they did was create a SurfaceRT, which makes absolutely no sense in the context of my new theory. And a Surface Pro, which is nowhere near the powers and capabilities of a top of the line laptop.
They created products which attempt to evolve on their Tablet PC while also being fear based reactions to the iPad. You can't do both to any moderate success.
Now if my theory is correct (and I think it is), then such a PC+ product wouldn't even be viable until Haswell. And it would be costly, as the new Haswell products are. And for it to be an evolution of the laptop, it must also have a Retina quality display that beats current laptops. It must be better than laptops. While also introducing a different keyboardless way of interaction.
But Microsoft didn't do that. No Surface or Windows 8 tablet is better than premium laptops. _Because of the cost considerations of competing with iPads_!
So basically, the Surface and its like are failures and will continue to fail because for some weird reason, Microsoft has chosen to compete with the iPad. Instead of bolding releasing a high cost product like a Macbook Pro with Retina Display or Chromebook Pixel. A product that most people simply won't be afford, but those who can afford it will buy it. A product that evolves the _real work_ laptop into a better _real work_ laptop, while adding new touch functionality and UIs for advanced graphics work, document viewing, data consumption, and other byproducts of premium Windows uses that can be done better on a touchscreen when the time calls for it.
A product that costs a kidney, but over time its features makes their way into cheaper Windows products. As has traditionally happened to _great_ success. A product that the mainstream would want because it is a better laptop for work and gaming, with touchscreen UI and capabilities for when the time calls for it.
This is a product that would make sense. But the Surface Pro is not this product and even if it gets Haswell, it may never be unless Microsoft starts focusing on its goals and stops reacting to their fear of the iPad. Which they have been doing or else the Surface RT wouldn't exist and the Surface Pro would have even shorter battery life than it does now because of a better processor and would be more graphically capable than it is now.
But with Haswell, maybe Microsoft will rethink their ideas. Maybe they will give up on uselessly competing with the iPad and start envisioning their own future of the PC fully. An interesting thought made moreso by Apple not seeming to envision a new future for the iMac or Macbook, besides better specs and experiences. Oh we Apple fans gloat about Apple perfecting the desktop instead of putting lipstick on a pig (which they are doing), but does that mean the desktop can only be perfected from here on out? I don't think so. (I am not saying Apple isn't thinking about these same things.)
As it is, Microsoft has compromised their future by reacting in fear to the iPad. And these weaknesses are shown in Windows 8, a product that doesn't know what it wants to be, and the SurfaceRT, a product that doesn't deserve to exist. But they still have time to take control of their own destiny, as Apple themselves are simply evolving the 'PC', and not revolutionizing it. But maybe... Google's own take of future PCs will become a success before Microsoft fixes their shit.