Surface Tension

Jun 24, 2012 No Comments by







Microsoft has announced the imminent launch of a touchscreen tablet PC called Surface, which is a bit like arriving so late for a dinner party that everyone else is on dessert.  Small-fry such as Tech Fogey won’t get to play with real devices until we’re big enough to matter, but we can still have a view and it’s along the lines of, ‘why did they bother?’  Apple and Google’s Android operating systems are well-established and have spawned myriad apps and complementary devices.  Developers of apps for Apple devices have so far shared $5 billion in revenue, of which Apple takes 30 per cent. To date 30 billion apps have been downloaded to Apple’s mobile products.  As of the end of 2011, 10 billion apps for Android had been downloaded.  There’s no chance Microsoft will overhaul Apple or Google/Android in this respect.  Surface also looks suspiciously like a laptop with a touchscreen, rather like the Asus EeePC Transformer.

Tablet or laptop? It’s all Surface.

The challenge will be to engender some sort of customer loyalty prompted by simple techno-lust; all Apple products are beautiful objects and several Android smartphones made by the likes of Samsung and HTC likewise.  Both Apple and Google have invested heavily in hardware (Google bought Motorola’s mobile division with a view to expanding their hardware presence) whereas Microsoft have always been reliant on getting their software into the hardware – PCs, smartphones – made by others.

There has been some hoo-hah in the tech press this week about Apple introducing a new charging port/plug for the next iPhone, thus rendering all previous charging devices and speaker docks redundant and so necessitating some swift retooling among those who make ‘made for iPhone’ products.  Apple is obviously banking on its customers loving their products so much they will forgive them the inconvenience and cost the change will cause.  Microsoft simply does not have this kind of relationship with its consumers.  It’s been suggested that Microsoft’s software strength, in particular the PC fraternity’s familiarity with Microsoft Office and the various applications within, such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel, will help drive sales of Surface but if you use those applications regularly chances are you have a PC or laptop and buying a tablet as well would be a £400 (or thereabouts) indulgence.

Microsoft has made hardware before and if Surface does as well as its Zune media player no one will be that surprised.

You can find out more about Microsoft’s Surface here.