Fifteen days using Surface Pro as my primary PC, I must say that I really, really like the tablet. Windows 8, the same. Ditto for Bing and Internet Explorer. I'm no stranger to using Microsoft products or services. But I am new to them being presented and consumed the way the company intends. The experience is refreshing and exhilarating, yet depressing. Who will know, with so much attention going to Android and iOS devices, or nimbler competitors offering more compelling products or services at faster pace?
Microsoft's problems aren't new, and that is the problem. This morning I reread my December 2009 post: "Microsoft isn't losing its consumer edge, it was game over long ago". I'm disturbed how little has changed, so much that, except for the lead paragraph, I could repost with new headline and the content would still be relevant. I will lift some parts here, as I offer, for the umpteenth time, remedies to Microsoft's woes.
After Microsoft cancelled the Surface Pro launch event in New York City due to bad weather, the software giant announced that starting Valentine's Day it would be expanding the Surface RT availability in 13 more European countries. And, as promised, the Windows RT-powered tablet has made its way onto the old continent, likely disrupting a few romantic plans in the process.
Surface RT fans in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland can now purchase the tablet from various local retailers or directly from Microsoft Store, depending on the market. Pricing is consistent among countries where Euro is used, ranging between EUR479 and EUR487 for the entry-level Surface RT in 32GB trim (without the Touch Cover keyboard).
First in a series. I have loved many computers and gadgets over the years. They typically share two things in common: Initial "Wow" reaction and improved experience the longer used. Microsoft Surface Pro gets the first, but more time is needed on the second. February 14 marks my fourteenth day using the tablet.
Too often tech vendors put too much emphasis on features while missing something more fundamental: Joy. How do you feel using the product. Does it make your life better? Are you happier for using the thing? Design -- how a product looks and the interaction with it -- is paramount. Apple products, for example, are pretty for a reason. On this Valentine's Day, after two weeks with Surface Pro, love is appropriate topic. Because the tablet makes me feel good.
Valentine's Day is all about romance, but whom -- or what -- do you really love? The stereotypical geek fawns over his or her gadgets and spends hours on PC (smartphone or tablet) instead of being with family or friends. Surely that describes you, and me, for that matter.
On this day of Cupid's arrows, I confess where they struck gadgets and other goodies and bound us in everlasting love. Take my wife, please, but leave my tech toys. She'll understand -- ah, right?
It's a wild week for Microsoft's Surface Pro team. There was the big release, with lines forming at Microsoft stores, reviews being posted all over the web and then news the tablet sold out at all locations. Not too much can be read into the latter at this point -- we do not know how much stock was actually available.
More are coming. In an overnight announcement, the Surface team lets everyone know that Microsoft is "shipping additional units of the 64GB SKU to Best Buy, Staples and Microsoft Store now. We are shipping 128GB SKU later this week to retailers, with some units available by the end of the week. Our priority (and that of our retail partners) is to fulfill orders from customers who made a reservation first. Canada is following a similar timeline but may take an extra few days to start arriving".
There has been a lot of news recently about Surface Pro. The new tablet made quite a splash over the weekend, but the jury still is out about the real success of the launch. However, Bluestacks is interested enough to bring its wares to the new platform and carry 750,000 Android apps along.
That may sound like a nice gesture towards Microsoft, but it also represents somewhat of a dig at the company. In fact, the website launched by Bluestacks is titled Get your Apps Back. The site even has a headline -- Missing your apps on Windows 8? While a dig at the lack of apps proliferating the new Windows Store, it is also a nice little bonus for Surface Pro early-adopters and other Windows 8 users.
If, like my colleague Joe Wilcox, you’ve already been lucky enough to get your hands on Microsoft’s new Surface PC, or you’re thinking of buying it in either the Windows 8 Pro or RT editions (and a stunning 45 percent of you say you'll be purchasing the former), you’ll want to download the new getting started guide immediately.
The official PDF manual from Microsoft Press is 68 pages long (1.35MB) and starts by introducing the device and explaining the differences between Surface RT and Pro, and also lists the accessories available to buy, before guiding readers through the setup process.
Weather may have ruined the Surface Pro launch event, but the "laptop in tablet form" started selling on February 9, in Canada and United States, nonetheless. And just like with its Windows RT-powered sibling, Microsoft aired a video ad that is meant to increase awareness and promote Surface Pro as a business-oriented device. But does it?
Interestingly titled "The Vibe", the Surface Pro video commercial bears a strong resemblance to the Surface RT one that debuted in mid-October. It's a very dynamic advert with business people dancing, smiling, signing, throwing things around, acting cool and generally doing things that business people don't normally ever do while at the office. It even starts with the same guy that opened up the Surface RT ad. The Vibe is a nice concept, but a poor choice for Surface Pro.
Last weekend was a big one for the sports world -- the Super Bowl is a day when even non-NFL fans suddenly watch football. This weekend turned out to be an exciting one for the tech world with Microsoft's launch of the Surface Pro tablet, which resulted in lines and a sellout.
In an ironic blog post yesterday Microsoft's Panos Panay, Surface chief, both announced the availability while simultaneously apologizing that customers could not actually buy one. A post titled "Surface Pro: Available Now" begins with "We’re working with our retail partners who are currently out of stock of the 128GB Surface Pro to replenish supplies as quickly as possible. Our priority is to ensure that every customer gets their new Surface Pro as soon as possible". If you are confused then apparently you are not the only one.
So much for the naysayers panning Microsoft's flagship tablet, or (wrongly) calling it woefully overpriced (but inferior) iPad. The first Surface Pro shipment sold out -- well, just about -- and only within a few hours, too. I called a half-dozen West Coast Microsoft Stores Saturday evening. None have either model. The online shop is sold out of the 128GB slate, but you can still get the 64 gigger. Stock checks at Best Buy and Staples also reveal sell-outs.
"They cleaned us out!" one California MS Store employee tells me Saturday night. Another says his shop stocked out in a couple of hours. No one would say how much inventory was available, but one person says, "Plenty!" Clearly not plenty enough. The question now: How long will those who want Surface Pro wait? One staffer says he expects more tablets Tuesday. No one else has timeframe.
Microsoft's flagship tablet running Window 8 Pro goes on sale in Canada and the United States on February 9. The device is the most-important released to date running the operating system, for what it seeks to accomplish and means for Microsoft. Critics call Windows RT a failure (I disagree). Distribution is the problem, if any, and that's easily remedied.
Still, RT badmouthing puts Pro perceptions in a bad spot. Microsoft's public relations team responded by getting devices out to reviewers and setting an embargo of 9 pm EST February 5. So four days before launch, a bunch of reviews exploded across the InterWebs around the same time. Younger reviewers from trendier tech tabloids tend to talk up Surface Pro while older fogies and those from more consumer pubs are more hesitant. I'm among the few old farts who get Surface and what Microsoft strives to achieve here. Then, again, I've covered the company for a long time.
I should say the big launch event planned for New York City. Can you say bad weather? In October Hurricane Sandy sandbagged (absolutely no pun intended) Google's Nexus device unveiling, also in the Big Apple. The search giant announced products anyway. Likewise, Surface Pro sales will go on, in stores around Canada and the United States and online.
"Surface Pro launch activities in NYC have been cancelled due to weather; our best wishes for everyone impacted by the blizzard," a Microsoft spokesperson tells BetaNews. Surely there's a metaphor here somewhere. What Microsoft's top brass must want -- desperately hope for on knees with hands clasped high -- is a blizzard of Surface Pro sales. A storm of people rushing into stores or pounding keys online to buy one of the two models, 64GB ($899) and 128GB ($999). If we were all characters in a novel, the blizzard would foreshadow future events -- or so Microsofties can only hope.
Surface Pro is magnificent. A classic. It's the Windows experience you longed for but were denied. The tablet is a reference design for what -- and what not -- Microsoft OEM partners should achieve. The device is the past and future, pure personal computer and post-PC. Simply put: Surface Pro is jack of all trades, both master of many, and (gulp) none. Capabilities astound, yet quirks abound. But even they are endearing, giving Windows 8 Pro personality and dimension.
For the past five days, I've had the privilege of using Surface Pro, which goes on sale February 9, as my primary PC. That's not enough time to fairly evaluate the tablet, which is why I write a first-impressions review. I'll add much more as my month with the device progresses. For now, I will share my early reactions, while offering context about Microsoft's objectives for the product and how well it achieves them. Unquestionably, Surface Pro isn't for everyone. But it could be for you.
Or do they? If you listen to some analysts, Surface, and other slates running Windows 8 or RT, started slow out of the gate. Considering how much tablets sapped PC shipments in Q4, slow forebodes trouble ahead. Or does it?
"There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul", Ryan Reith, IDC program manager, says. "However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company’s Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best". He estimates that Microsoft shipped just 900,000 Surfaces during fourth quarter, which means to stores and not actual sales to customers.
Microsoft is no stranger to controversy, even attracting negative attention when it comes to the advertised storage of its own Surface tablet lineup. The interwebs buzzed after the company admitted the shortcomings of Surface RT, which only comes with 16GB of user-accessible storage in 32GB trim, and now the same issue is raising its head all over again with Surface Pro, just days before the big launch.
As most knowledgeable Windows users will concede, Microsoft's latest consumer operating system does take up quite a bit of storage space due to its fully-fledged nature. For example, on my personal computer running Windows 8 Pro 64-bit, the "Windows" folder by itself uses just over 16GB. So it's not overly difficult to imagine Windows 8 Pro will take up a lot of Surface Pro's free space. Of course this is something that educated pundits surely know (or at least they should).