This week started out with a bang, when in the midst of a last-minute, mystery press event in Los Angeles on Monday, Microsoft revealed its new tablet, the Surface for Windows RT. Using Apple founder Steve Jobs’ approach, Microsoft Windows Division President Steve Sinofsky sported casualwear for his live, on-stage demonstration of the new device. Mr. Sinofsky showcased the tablet’s capabilities and talked of how users could smoothly browse the Internet using Internet Explorer and the Windows 8 operating system – all well and good, until the tablet froze up on him mid-sentence. (See the now infamous #Fail video below.) After a minute of struggling with the faulty Surface, Mr. Sinofsky ran to replace the malfunctioning device with a working model and then carried on the presentation, noting that “movies and entertainment will look great” on the tablet.
The Surface tablet features a 10.6 inch, hi-definition touchscreen – slightly larger than the iPad’s 9.5 inch height – and both a front and rear facing camera. The Surface also boasts a few innovations that are not common to the current tablet marketplace. The cover flips down to become a full keyboard, a pen clicks into the tablet itself, and the tablet also has a built-in kickstand.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer noted that the company had made some good hardware in the past and the time was ripe for it to enter the tablet market. “Much like Windows 1 needed the mouse, we wanted to give Windows 8 its own hardware,” he said.
Even with its innovative features, the Microsoft Surface faces steep competition in the tablet marketplace, which is already dominated by the Apple iPad. Manufactures shipped more than 18 million tablets in the first quarter of 2012, with Apple accounting for 11.8 million devices. The IDC estimates that the iPad will account for 63% of total tablets shipped in 2012. Apple’s revenue from iPad sales has exceeded Microsoft’s Windows revenue for the past three quarters, and the world’s most valuable company is now worth more than twice as much as Microsoft.
“Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a big bet – a bet on software – but it was always clear that we had to push hardware in ways that sometimes manufacturers hadn’t envisioned,” Steve Ballmer said at Monday’s event. “We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects, hardware and software, are working together.”
In short, Microsoft made a bold move this week, challenging the biggest kid on the tablet marketplace block. Time will tell whether they show themselves to be a worthy contender or fall flat on their face and the Surface goes down the same, sad path of Microsoft’s Zune.
Microsoft Surface Presentation Fail