First of all, let me apologise, to those of you who actually care, for my long absence. Like most writers of my age, I take on several projects simultaneously and as a result, sometimes the less important ones (this blog, which I started as a hobby to write and speculate on my guilty pleasure, technology) get pushed to the back burner in favour of ones more important. (My on-going contributions to Columbia’s much-needed reformation, and trying to help grow the Playwriting Programme at Columbia).
Either way, your friend Taylor is back, and what a time to be back, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Kings and Queens, and clergy alike, I present to you:
The Microsoft Surface, for those of you living under a rock, is Microsoft’s personal challenge to Apple’s iPad and the numerous (and mostly shit) Android Tablets on the market. It is Microsoft’s gentle push to their own OEMs to build killer Windows 8 tablets that will take full advantage of the OS’s many innovations, and it is the reason my girlfriend already knows she won’t get her wish of me ‘revamping’ my winter wardrobe this year, no I won’t, for my money will be better spent on what will probably be the best digital friend a writer could have in his arsenal.
None the less, there are some inherent risks attached to Microsoft producing hardware. Problem one, of course, is that outside of a few keyboards and mice, speakers and headsets, and of course the Zune and the Xbox, Microsoft hasn’t really produced any hardware, and certainly, never a full-fledged PC to rival their own hardware manufacturers. In other words, Microsoft has never been in direct competition with HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, and all the other people who make the computers that run their OS before. And quite frankly, that was smart. It was Microsoft’s advantage over Apple originally, after all, since HP and Dell didn’t just compete with Apple, they also competed with each other. The result? Two years ago, while living in a cheap studio in Chicago, I could by my HP TouchSmart tm2, with the same specs as its then $1,500 (which Apple rips-off its UK buyers with £1,500 pricing too, despite the exchange rate) Apple ‘MacBook Pro’ cousin for a mere $800. And that wasn’t from some shady second or third person site, no, that was from HP themselves. (And my TouchSmart has a touch screen, something that the MacBook Pro still lacks).
Of course, for Microsoft, this has also been a downside, as they have historically have had very little say over the quality of their OEM’s products. And while my HP TouchSmart tm2 has been fantastic, well, I think most people can remember the crap-tastic computers that Dell released, each generation of lowering quality from the late 1990’s through the early 2000’s. (Dell has turned it around, I’ll admit), or budget computers like NEC that brought shame to Microsoft’s OS.
So that brings us back to the Surface.
Now, I like HP, I really do. I am writing this on an HP, like I said, but that doesn’t change the fact that HP’s Windows tablets, well, they suck compared to even, say, Samsung’s Windows Tablet.
And quite frankly, before now there’s not been any standard for a Windows tablet. How many buttons will it have? Will it have a Windows button? Will it have volume buttons? Or rotation lock? What size will the screen be? What will its resolution be? Again, that’s where the Surface comes in.
Not just does the Surface issue a challenge to other tablet makers (‘See? Our smart cover doubles as a ultra-thin flexible keyboard, what’s yours do? Turn on and off the screen automatically? That’s… cool’.) but it establishes and showcases the strict standards that Microsoft is demanding from its OEMs in order to take on the iPad, and says, ‘See? Follow our standards, and you get the world excited’.
The Surface marks the beginning of Windows 8 tablets. For an opening volley, it is extremely impressive, and yes, this is the first tech product I’ll be waiting to get right on release (my TouchSmart has been dropped too many times already, and its Hard drive is starting to make the infamous ‘death clicks’ associated with mechanical drives on their way out). So you’ll get to see me talk about it later, writing about it from it.