Laptop/Notebook buyers today have two options. One is to go with Apple which builds both software and hardware. It is able to blend hardware goodness to flexibly match the software’s advantages and limitations into one machine. Then there’s Microsoft which reaped the advantage of becoming software focussed years ago and has a host of hardware partners making all kinds of hardware for its software operating system. The closest parallel you can draw between the laptop ecosystem and the smartphone ecosystem is Google’s Android.
But unlike Google which has historically used one of its hardware manufacturers to build its wildly successful Nexus range of smartphones, Microsoft took another direction by deciding to release Windows 8 on its own custom-built hardware, trying to emulate Apple. The problem with this of course is that its software and hardware needs to compliment and work seamlessly with each other to create a beautiful experience for its users. In October 2012, Microsoft released its surface tablet range which to put it mildly failed to enthuse everybody except its most hardcore fan-base due to the lightweight nature of its OS named Windows 8 RT. Now, with the launch of Surface Pro, will it be able to capture the imagination of the common user? Read on for reviews around the web…
Tim Stevens from Engadget bemoans the lack of consistency between hardware and software “…we’re still searching for the perfect device and OS combo that not only manages both tasks, but excels at them. The Surface Pro comes about as close as we’ve yet experienced, but it’s still compromised at both angles of attack.” and then finishes with “we look forward to testing the dozens of touch-friendly hybrid and convertible devices due this year, but sadly Microsoft’s second tablet doesn’t have us reaching for our credit cards. Not quite yet.” -1. Score -1.
Anand Lal Shimpi from Anantech details the positives and negatives of the Surface Pro and finishes off quite positively with “Surface Pro is an easier recommendation simply because you don’t have to wait for the Windows ecosystem to mature, you can already run all of your existing PC apps on the platform and it’s competitive with other Ultrabooks in terms of performance. If you’re shopping for an Ultrabook today and want that tablet experience as well, Surface Pro really is the best and only choice on the market.” +1. Score Level.
Jason Evangelho, in his first impressions from Forbes quips “I’ll say I’m enthusiastic about the Surface Pro in its role as a ultrabook and productivity machine.” +1. Score +1.
Kyle Wagner from Gizmodo thinks that the Surface Pro isn’t for everyone and states “or a lot of you, a thick, superpowered tablet isn’t necessary, and a laptop-like (and laptop-priced) machine that makes it harder to bang out emails, IMs, and tweets while on the couch or in bed is nothing you’re interested in.” -1. Score Level.
Scott Stein, CNET questions Microsoft’s price point for the Surface Pro and thinks he might rather get an iPad Mini and an el cheapo Windows 8 laptop “Right now, the Surface Pro works. It’s not the most price-logical Windows 8 PC in the world — for $1,000, I might get an iPad Mini and a cheap Windows 8 laptop instead — but I think a fair number of people are going to end up being Surface Pro fans.“ I think he is in for a bitter disappointment if he does that. -1. Score -1
Vincent Nguyen, Slashgear adds a +1 to the positive reviews on the Surface Pro stating that the Surface Pro is a well built machine but may end up eating into the sales of its own partners’ ultrabook ecosystem. “Think of it as a touchscreen notebook with an optional keyboard and it makes the most sense. That may be semantics, but it also means the Surface Pro is more likely to cannibalize ultrabook sales than eat into Apple’s iPad market. Whether that’s the market Microsoft was aiming for, we’re not sure, but the Surface Pro makes considerable sense for the prosumer.” +1. Score Level.
David Pierce from The Verge is really undecided on the premise of the Surface Pro and states “Which leads me back to the same question Josh asked about the Surface RT: who is this for?” “It’s too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it’s too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do. In its quest to be both, the Surface is really neither. It’s supposed to be freeing, but it just feels limiting.” -1. Score -1.
As you can see from a review sample size of seven, Microsoft’s latest ultrabook outing’s scores oscillate back and forth but manages to neither garner an outstandingly positive score nor weighs itself down with an overwhelmingly negative score.
Perhaps if Microsoft had adopted the hardware+software strategy by making incremental updates to Windows 7, its most successful operating system till date and had focussed on building really great hardware around it, things might have been easier. But by building a Windows 8 OS which is considerably different to its earlier iterations and having to focus on hardware which is thankfully superb, Microsoft might just have bitten a little too much than it can chew. The folks at Microsoft must be patting themselves at the back for creating a first device that has managed to garner mixed reviews from the tech-hardened journalist crowd. But they have a long and arduous journey in front of them and they should carry on relentlessly tweaking and introducing product changes that make it intuitive and productive while also focussing on the app ecosystem for its tablet interface.