Microsoft is releasing its first ever personal computer, the Surface, at midnight tonight.While it was initially pitched as a tablet to rival the iPad, the more we look at it, the more we think it’s a rival to laptops. It’s pretty evident in its first ad, which is built entirely around the experience of clicking the keyboard into the tablet screen to make something that’s more like a laptop than an iPad.
Microsoft launched Windows 8 today in New York, and at the event we asked an executive whether the Surface was supposed to be a laptop or a tablet.
His didn’t answer, but basically said it was both. He said that if you go through an airport, you’ll see people with smartphones, tablets, and laptops. For one task, say, watching video, a person will pull out the tablet. Then for another task, like writing an email, the same person will pull out their laptop.
Microsoft’s objective is to eliminate the need for that second step. It’s supposed to be an all in one device.
Microsoft’s head of communications Frank Shaw echoed those comments to us at the event. He talked about someone coming to his house to do some remodeling. The remodelers had photos on their iPad. Then when it was time to make an order, they pulled out their PC.
Whether or not that works, remains to be seen. The early reviews of the Surface have been mixed. The general consensus is that the hardware is great, but the software is so-so. This is an ironic change for a software company.
Microsoft believes it’s going to work. The executive we were talking with said Microsoft saw a lot of people in meetings with iPads propped up, using awkward keyboards to type notes. Microsoft thinks its come up with a solution to fix that problem.
“Sometimes it’s good to be second,” says the exec, because you learn from your competition’s weak spots.