Microsoft Surface and where Steve Ballmer should call up Tim Cook and thank him. Then apologize

The Microsoft Surface will be offered, soon, for $600 US. I am not counting the base $500 model since a core reason for anyone to even consider the Surface is the connectable keyboard. With “tablet” and keyboard, the minimum price is $600.

Moving on…

The new ad is just odd.

Microsoft needs to understand something: no matter who is running their marketing, their advertising, their communications, no matter who they hire to produce and direct commercials, they must not, ever, not ever…

…attempt to appear cool.

Or even different.

This strategy will *always* fail for Microsoft.


People buy Microsoft products — only and ever — go back and read that, only and ever, because they are functionally superior. Or more readily available. Or cheaper. Or required by the IT guy. Or because they have always used Microsoft. Or because there is more “software” available.

Not ever because they are cool.

Do not try. No one — go back and read that — no one, will buy a Microsoft product because it is cool. Advertising as such is merely a waste of time and money.

Moving on…

After reviewing everything Microsoft has revealed about the Surface, I do hope Steve Ballmer called up Tim Cook and offered a personal thanks.


Because the Surface looks, yes, exactly like the iPad. And that keyboard cover looks exactly like the iPad smart cover.

Don’t be a hater. Don’t be a Microsoft sheep. Let’s not even suggest otherwise. The tablet and cover look just like iPad with smart cover.

So, yes, Ballmer should thank Apple and offer his apologies for copying.

No, wait. Since Apple is gutting Microsoft’s future with iPhone, iPad and MacBooks, Ballmer should not call up Cook, but instead call every Microsoft customer – using  Nokia Lumia, perhaps — and offer a personal apology.


Because Microsoft has been talking about tablets for over a decade. Because Microsoft — and Ballmer — have been showing off tablets for a decade. While denying each of us the opportunity to actually have one!

Tablets, unlike Microsoft, are cool.

And Microsoft has killed every opportunity for us to have a cool tablet for a decade now. Until Apple finally released one, and forced Microsoft’s hand.

Which sucks for Microsoft because the iPad has already sold 100 million units. The iPad ecosystem is the strongest in the market. Microsoft and the Surface simply will not catch up. Thus, the Surface must look elsewhere for sales.

Which now puts Microsoft in the awkward position of competing not with Apple — and the iPad — but with every one of its remaining vendors who build laptops and netbooks. Because there is simply no reason to purchase a Windows-based laptop or a netbook and a Surface. Each sale of the Surface means one less sale of a laptop or netbook, maybe even a PC. Microsoft knows this, of course. That’s why they call it, well, why they refuse to call it a tablet or a netbook or a laptop. Rather, they say it’s something ‘different’. They also, you will note, offer these devices only via Microsoft stores (and via Long-time Windows PC vendors will not be offering these devices. I think that this guarantees very few of these Surface ‘tablets’ will actually sell. I suspect Microsoft will sell fewer Surface tablets than even Samsung has sold of their Android tablets, which is an embarrassingly low number.

Sales numbers aside, there should be no iPad. Apple should not have sold 100 million iPads already. There should be no Galaxy Nexus, for example. We should be mocking the Kindle Fire. Instead, we get to make fun of the Microsoft Surface.

Or worse: ignore it.

Microsoft has dithered for a decade. We should have been using our own (Microsoft based) tablets for years now. Instead, Microsoft has focused on ensuring that Windows and Office continue to drive billions in profits to the company, rather than focusing their efforts on us, the user.

Their loss. Google is now the size of Microsoft. Apple is far bigger. Worse, still, is that we all went mobile. Microsoft tried to keep us chained to our desktops. They failed. A good decade after Microsoft was first showing off tablets they now promise that soon we can have one of theirs.

Will it prove superior to iPad?

Very unlikely. Truth is, however, I don’t even care anymore. I suspect most don’t. I’ve moved on. I suspect the market has as well, to iPad, to Kindle, to Android tablets, even.

Ballmer spent the past ten years focusing on profits over users. The users wised up, competition rose up, and we have broken the chains that bound us to Microsoft for the past twenty years.

Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at

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  • JackBlack

    Shittiest article I cam accross in a while

  • oxhanoverxo

    Amazing to see that the first troll post was the article itself.

  • generalvvarts

    Really? Ok well I agree with you about coolness not being a factor in buying microsoft products. How can you blame them for running this angle with the surface. Apple did and they did it well. Thats why people, most notable young people buy apple products. I am not an apple fan because it seems trendy. Ok so now you will acuse me of being a microsoft groupie but thats not the case. Apple is innovative and their products look good! They some how have turned people into music zombies with the start of the ipod. But why pick apple? Why not any other mp3 player or smart phone? Why over pay to appear cool? And whats up with the apples propritary ports. How many adpters are needed for an ipad to exist in someons life. Microsoft wants some of that “cool” money and I cant blam them. I will not buy a surface at that price. I also do not own any apple products. I just dont see how apple thinks people will continue to shell out all that money every time they release a new product version. Alright apple fans lets hear all the hate you have for me. I also did not spell check this so you can hate on my grammar to.

  • RC in Vancouver

    Thought the ad was great. This is MS’ first tablet. Shouldn’t they be given the room to discover their own style without prejudice or persecution…

  • riding solo

    Microsoft sheep? or IRobot lol

  • Jmaaan

    Surface looks like an IPAD. but isnt an IPAD. Try these things with an IPAD. Expand disk using micro sd, type using the smart cover, connect a camera and transfer pics to the device or connect an external hd to transfer data/media to and from the device…

  • studuncan

    Sure. But it’s been about 10 years since they’ve released the WinXP tablets. I’d say that’s more than enough ‘room to discover their own style without prejudice or persecution”

  • studuncan

    “I am not an apple fan because it seems trendy.”
    You forgot that it works well too.
    “Why not any other mp3 player or smart phone?”
    Guess which one was easiest to use.
    ” Why over pay to appear cool?”
    So, are you saying similar tablets/computers/phones are cheaper? No they’re not.

  • Brian S Hall

    Fair enough. I just don’t think it works. Anyone who sees this ad will compare it with iPad. There are reasons to buy iPad. What are the reasons to buy Surface? This ad is just pretty people dancing.

  • Brian S Hall

    The market simply does not care about nonsense like disk expansion. You and I have no idea how good or awful the smart cover typing is — but we know exactly how good the many keyboards on the market for iPad are. Regarding the camera/photo transfer, that’s a valid mark in Surface’s favor.

  • Idon’t Know

    Your mom liked it.

  • Idon’t Know

    None of which you have ever seen anyone do on a surface because for some mysterious reason Microsoft wont let anyone touch them.
    You really don’t know you can connect a camera to an iPad? Or an SD card? or an external hard drive? Like most Apple haters you know nothing about them

  • eyez00

    I want one! I’ve got a table with a bit of uneveness & I reckon a strategically place Surface with do just the trick!

    Otherwise Brian is an Apple Shill! Obviously! And if he ISNT being PAID to run this constant Apple Luv-Up, then he must have shares (or options to buy at cheap $s)

    He can hardily write coherently cuz his nose is so far up Tim Cooks ass, Tim’s having treatment to his tonsils!


  • Guest

    Do you know why Apple has the best selling smartphones, tablets, and portable music players?

    Because their competitors think like you do. They think people only buy Apple products because they’re “cool”, and so they try to compete with Apple by out-cooling them. Instead of by making stronger products.

    Tim Cook is probably quite thankful for this.

  • WP7Mango

    Here are 10 reasons why you would buy a Surface RT over the iPad –

    1. Multi-user logins – if a family is sharing a Surface RT (or any Windows 8 / RT tablet for that matter), then each member can have their own settings, their own apps, their own start screen layout, their own accounts, their own contacts etc.

    2. Run two apps side by side – this is actually a very cool feature allows you to do two things at the same time, such as chatting on IM+ whilst watching a video.

    3. Live Tile – another cool feature! They are not just notifications or live data, but they allow you to pin multiple shortcuts to subsections of an app. For example, you can pin multiple contacts from the People app to the Start screen and when you click on one of these contacts, it launches the People app and takes you directly to the contact’s details section.

    4. Connectivity – SD cards (contrary to what you say) are very handy both as a cheaper option for expandable storage and for transferring large amounts of data. Same for the USB ports which allows you to use memory sticks as mass storage, or connect to a backup drive etc. Whilst cloud syncing is great, it’s painfully slow for large files, therefore transfer via USB is very useful. USB also allows you to connect to other devices such as printers, 3G dongles, etc.

    5. Internet Explorer – has the Flash plugin integrated, therefore more web sites will work correctly on the Surface than on the iPad. A useful stop-gap whilst the world gradually switches to HTML 5.

    6. Microsoft Office included, free! You get Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publish included, which is pretty good.

    7. On-screen touch keyboards – there are 4 to choose from: 1. Same as iPad, where you switch between letters and numbers. 2. Split keyboard for thumb entry, like the iPad. 3. Full QWERTY keyboard which is laid out like a physical keyboard so you don’t need to switch between letters and numbers (great for when you need to write documents). 4. Handwriting keyboard – this is probably the coolest of the keyboards, and the handwriting recognition is awesome.

    8. Wide-screen 16:9 format – as well as actually having more screen space, the Surface will give a much better experience when watching films.

    9. XBox integration with Smart Glass.

    10. Integrated kick stand – let’s be honest, it’s actually a very cool feature to have built into the tablet itself, especially for when you want to watch films or write documents using the physical keyboard.

  • Brian S Hall

    How much time have you spent actually using the Surface?
    I will say that free Office, for the $600 version I reference, is a nice bonus.

  • WP7Mango

    Surface – none.

    But I have spent 4 weeks with a Windows 8 tablet (Samsung 700T). The first 9 reasons I listed above are the same for any Windows 8 / RT tablet too.

  • NOT RahmEmanuel

    That’s not what she told me.

  • Guest

    You’ve listed 9 reasons to by a Windows 8 / RT tablet, but only *one* reason to buy a Surface: it has a flip-out stand.

    That is dire.

  • WP7Mango

    No, I’ve listed 10 reasons why you would buy a Surface RT instead of an iPad.

    But I only listed one reason why you would buy a Surface over any other Windows RT tablet. The other reason would be the touch-type cover.

  • ksbd

    “Tablets, unlike Microsoft, are cool.”

    No, they’re not – unless you think carrying around a touchscreen equipped digital photo frame is cool.

  • surethom

    Surface looks like an ipad, well Apple copied first as an ipad looks like the Star Trek Pads from the 90’s.

  • Mark Ranson

    Apple has the best designed and usually the most easiest to use products in each of the markets they compete. They may not have the latest technology before their competitors but they excel at making their products the most desirable and initiate the “Jones’s” syndrome here in the US where everyone has to have one because everyone else does, or so they think.
    I 110% agree that Microsoft is indeed very late to the party and I have used various tablets in the past 10 years that have failed due to the OS being unsuitable for a touchscreen, including the recent Dell Latitude ST with Windows 7.
    I even used the various Palm and Windows CE devices as part of various IT projects.
    Unlike the laptop and desktop market that Apple fails to have a large share of both here in the US and less so worldwide, they dominate the tablet market, well at least they used to.
    We do have Apple products in our home (wife’s iPhone and kids iPod Touch’s) and I think they are great and I really want to like Apple better but much of the tech press nowadays is so pro-Apple that inevitably there is a core group who scream “Apple fan-boy” and/or “Mircrosoft hater” and these people are hurting Apple.
    I am sorry but this article is exactly this, written by a Microsoft hater/Apple fan-boy as it has both inaccurate and misleading information in it much like a FOX NEWS tv show. Again, I am not counting the parts relating to Microsofts complete failure to deliver in this market, but when you make claims that the iPad dominates the current tablet market this simply isn’t true as currently in late 2012 ANDROID has taken over as the dominant OS in tablets.
    It is for this reason I do not read articles on this website and was linked to this from another website I do read as I felt I had to make a comment.

  •ágyi/100001770630008 Atty Halmágyi

    This Metro UI is annoying!!! Anyway I like Windows, and I will probably never use iOs or Linux. :P
    I think Windows is superior and COOL!

  • Guest

    You’ve failed to make the case why anybody should buy a Surface over any other Windows RT tablet, and thus why anybody should specifically choose a Surface over an iPad. Why not choose any other RT tablet?

    Because the Surface has a stand and keyboard?

    The other day I saw QVC selling the iPad with a case that had an integrated keyboard and stand. I doubt it’s going to be very long until we see competing Windows tablets with their own integrated keyboards and stands, or at the very least cases that have them built in a la the QVC iPad.

    So, remove the keyboard and stand from the equation and what reason to buy a Surface – not just any Windows tablet but a Surface – does that leave it with?

  • WP7Mango

    I wasn’t trying to make a case for why anyone would by the Surface RT over any other Windows RT tablet. Surface RT is just one of many options available, and as you say, it’s more of a showcase device for OEMs to follow, therefore I would certainly expect to see something similar from OEMs.

    What I *was* making a case for is why you *would* by a Windows RT tablet (including the Surface) over the iPad. Plus, this article specifically mentioned the Surface, which is why I used it as a comparison with the iPad.

  • generalvvarts

    whats hard to use about any mp3 player or smart phone. Apple does dumb things done

  • generalvvarts

    what does apple products do that others do not. why buy one? convince me. to me apple seems like a non-nerd product, something tech challenged people buy.

  • Brian S Hall

    I never thought of it that way. Perhaps tablets are not cool. Of course, that makes the Microsoft ad even worse.

  • alex

    Brian, did you even read your article before you posted it? You sound like an angry dick who resents Microsoft for no reason :p who cares if Microsoft this long to come out with a tablet? Who cares if it looks like an iPad? The only thing I care about is features IDC whose name is on it or what brand it is.

  • Applonia

    Excellent article! Especially the ‘cool’ bit which I totally agree with.
    There reason why the Surface [especially in it’s Intel form] may be a success is because there may be many people like myself who want one both because it is good/well designed and specifically NOT Apple.
    I can’t wait to finally get rid of my iPhone so I am 100% free of their petty, controlling, intrusive, marketing regime.
    Sorry, I think I should go and lie down for a bit …..

  • Brian S Hall

    If I “resent” Microsoft it’s because I think they’ve focused their talents on trying to keep me bound to Windows PCs. They have had numerous opportunities to bring me something better, something innovative. But failed. A bad copy of an iPad, two years after iPad is released, is not worth my time.

  • storm on the horizon

    Spot on article!! Loved it. I am sure the msft pr police will be knocking soon to make you take this down. How dare you say something bad about msft even if it is fare and widely known. Look what happened to mini-microsoft who they killed off completely ..LOL.

  • Raja

    That is a commercial, not a tutorial to show how to use it,
    Juss see car commercial. ad is to promote how product will look, if you want to learn car by seeing ad, it will be fail.

  • trgnoobie

    Like the Nexus, I would think of the Surface as the W8 tablet reference. What the original user experience would be from a W8 tablet would be from a Surface.

    And championing the Surface would be championing W8 tablets.

    Now, I’ll go for the Surface. Why? It’s design, which I notice it has never been talked about so far on this thread. I’m a consumer of design like most others, and I love the seamless integration of the keyboard and stylus. And of course, the overall look is as dashing as its user interface.

    And most of all, the reason I’m getting the Surface? I’m getting the Pro.

    I need Pro as I’m going to do national service in my country soon. I don’t need a full computing experience from a laptop, but I’ll still need to run certain desktop apps, and the need to use specialized apps as part of my MSDN account.

    And no, I don’t like Lenovo. Obviously to be unbiased I’ll have to look at the product’s own worth, but I’ve a beef with Lenovo products.

    But I think that Windows is so much different from Android, in that it doesn’t alienate competing devices. Updates will be launched throughout all supported devices, and every device UI experience is the same. What differentiates Windows devices would be hardware and the software suites, and so it really does blur the lines of comparison.

    This in my opinion is the cause of such discussions like the above, but to me, this will be to Microsoft’s blessing.

  • DANatUW

    You hate Microsoft eh? Send me a link to the one where you claim the Windows is for losers, I know you got one somewhere here. The Surface looks like an iPad… Its rectangular and has a screen! It has a Microsoft logo, different edges, different buttons on the side, USB port, MicroSD slot, has a kickstand, and the cover is a keyboard. Other than that though, it looks like an iPad! Every single one of your articles bashes Microsoft, with phrases like “tablets, unlike Microsoft, are cool” Great reporting hahahaha.

  • Sam

    Dear unwired… If Brian Hall is not the CEO, then fire his ass. He sucks.

  • R

    What makes this article worthy of your time?

  • Stoli89

    Yes, clearly this article reeks of bias…but who can trust dependent journalists to deliver verifiable facts anymore? They are not bound by ethics…only bottom line. Pro-Apple “news” is good for their business and his career.

  • Stoli89

    How much time have you spent? Just curious.