Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Surface RT: Good News and Bad News

Following a recent post, Microsoft's launch of the Surface RT broke with the company's history in one, fundamental way.  Walter Mossberg, the widely reach technology guru at the Wall Street Journal, wrote,
"This isn't a cheap iPad knockoff. It's a unique tablet, made of a type of magnesium with a feeling of quality and care. The Surface starts at the same $499 base price as the large iPad, albeit with 32 gigabytes of storage, twice Apple's entry offering."
These are all home runs for the consumer impression. Mossberg's comment is consistent with some of ours about the engineering and design work that went into the product.  Note too, that because it is not a me-too knockoff the iPad, the question of price, which was the siren song of Wall Street analysts like Shaw Wu, doesn't appear.  This was the only way to go, as we said.

David Pogue, tech columnist for the New York Times echoes these thoughts,

"Now, for the very first tablet it has ever manufactured (in fact, its very first computer), Microsoft could have just made another iPad ripoff. But it aimed much higher. It wanted to build a tablet that’s just as good at creating work as it is at organizing it.
On the hardware front, Microsoft has succeeded brilliantly. Read the specs and try not to drool on your keyboard"
Where the folks at Redmond appear to have fallen down is on the software side!  The version of Windows 8  for the Surface, which is called RT, seems to be have some initial bugs and limitations.  The screen, which we talked about, is described as "sharp and vivid" by Mossberg, but inferior to the fourth generation of Apple's retina display.  If it's sharp and vivid and made for working, as opposed to running slide shows, which is what most of my friends use their iPad for, then I don't think this is a big deal.

The camera photo quality, and the battery life issues need to be fixed.

Here's a memo I would put out to the team if I were Steve Ballmer:
You've had a good launch, not a great one.  Make sure we stay in touch with everyone who has bought a Surface---use blogs, set up a special communications tool, but do not, under any circumstances, let our customers stew and get frustrated.  Put engineers on 800 numbers to answer questions.If you've better ideas to increase our customer intimacy, let me know. If we need to change what we do here, go ahead and change it. 
Let our customers tell us what the fixes should be. Mossberg and Pogue are great for initial validation, but we need to make sure that nobody feels bad about their decision to commit their dollars to our product.  We are going to make them feel good, no matter what it takes.  That will be the best testament to your hard work in bringing this product to market.  Thanks for bringing a unique tablet to market on time. Bill, the board, and I are right behind you.   
I hope they go forward from here, because there are definitely things that need fixing, but no show stoppers.

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