With much fanfare this week, Steve Ballmer showed off Microsofts response to the iPad, the Surface. Its still early to assess this product, as technical details are sketchy and deliveries are not expected until the fall. Still, as an avid user of the iPad for several years, I could not help but wonder if Microsoft might be onto something big.
We all know that the iPad has been a resounding success with users and also a financial success for Apple with +60% share of the tablet market. Sure, weve seen many Android-based competitors, but none seem to have the polish of the iPad. Now, with Microsoft offering what appears to be a convergence of the laptop and the tablet, it causes me to wonder if there might be a Surface in my future. If I look at how I use devices at work and play, the iPad is great for reading, browsing the web, watching movies, and checking email. But I find myself always reverting to my laptop whenever I really want to get through some emails, or do some serious web searching, let alone creating or editing a document or spreadsheet of any size. So, what is the iPad missing? A physical keyboard. And, even if I add the Apple Bluetooth keyboard I acquired a year ago to use with the iPad, I still prefer my laptop. Part of the reason is beyond the physical keyboard, perhaps the ease of access to Corporate VPNs and full access to file services to access and save docs. On the iPad, aside from using a service like Dropbox or Box.com, I need to manage documents from within Outlook.
So, where has this taken me? My thought is that the Surface might just be the ideal in-between device, offering laptop capabilities in a tablet format. I hope so because not only do I like shiny new objects, but I also want Microsoft to do well as they play a key role in the economy here in Seattle. I also think this will kick off additional rounds of innovation that will lead to further consolidation through software M&A.