Can Microsoft’s Surface pip Apple?

20th June 2012

The world has had a day to consider Microsoft's unveiling of the Surface – its tablet offering complete with a handy detachable keyboard.

The tablet, which will employ the Windows 8 operating system, does not yet have a price attached. Yet it has caused a storm of media interest, and reams of analysis about what it means for Microsoft's competitors and indeed its erstwhile allies among PC manufacturers.

But does it signal an Apple-crushing revolution, a profitable new product or a huge waste of time, effort and money? Here Mindful Money brings you a brief survey of the verdict from the web and the mainstream media.

The Telegraph's consumer technology editor Matt Warman suggests that the tablet needs to make Microsoft aspirational as opposed to functional.

He writes: "So these new devices must do two things: complete the case for Windows 8 – beautiful software deserves beautiful hardware – but also explain to consumers that tablets are not just about consumption of media but can instead be used for all aspects of productive work."

The Guardian considers what the analysts have been saying.

It quotes Sarah Rottman of Forrester Research saying: ""This product line marks a crucial pivot in Microsoft's product strategy. It blends the Xbox first-party hardware model with the Windows ecosystem model. It puts the focus on the consumer rather than the enterprise. And it lets Microsoft compete with vertically-integrated Apple on more even ground."

Intriguingly, Nomura Securities' Rick Sherlund believes Microsoft rather than setting itself up as a serious hardware manufacturer is actually trying to demonstrate the power and flexibility of Windows 8 to its business partners.

He says: "This will raise questions for the PC makers, which are Microsoft's biggest customers and who would now seem to be potential competitors. However, tablets are only a tiny fraction of their revenues, and Computex [the computing trade show in Taiwan] was very disappointing when it came to Windows RT; thus it would seem likely that Microsoft has made these launches to demonstrate what is possible with Windows 8, rather than as a virtualisation move."

Warming to that theme, BusinessWeek says rather than a challenge the move is an indictment of PC manufacturers such as Dell which have left the tablet field free to Apple up till now.

It writes: "This is what the company does in times of desperation. And, with the release of Windows 8 looming, Microsoft was indeed desperate for a hardware company to do something to blunt Apple's runaway tablet machine. The Surface tablet represents an indictment of the entire PC and device industry, which has stood by for a couple of years trying to mimic Apple with a parade of hapless, copycat products."

PC World is seeking the answers to five unanswered questions none more fundamental than "When will it arrive?"

It also says the new product will need to be priced at around £500 because other more expensive launches have failed to gain traction.

Here the Telegraph considers the mixed reaction from Twitter much of which concentrates of the fact many people didn't like the teaser advertisement.

But the sunniest treatment probably comes from Mashable.

"With its new Surface Tablet, Microsoft didn't just break the mold. It smashed it into a million little pieces, chucked them all into the furnace and set the temperature to obliterate. There really is no precedent for what Microsoft did this week. What was once recognizable is gone. The expected is no more. There are no rules, only supply and the possibility of demand.

"Microsoft finally built the tablet it wants to use for its platform: an ultra-thin, superlight, kick-stand-sporting, brainiac-cover wearing, touch screen wonder that elicited dozens of "I wants" in Mashable's live blog chatter."

It might be a revolution after all.


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