Microsoft unveiled their new tablet this week, and the reaction revealed how bifurcated the tech press is becoming. On one side, you had the Apple-centric press which quickly pointed out its similarity to the iPad introduction. Really, you don’t say? Two events introducing tablets being similar?
Unfortunately, most competitors to Apple are in a bit of a squeeze, PR-wise: Apple did a lot of really great things with the iPad, and not doing them too means you’re quickly criticized as inferior. But do some of the same things as the iPad, and you’re characterized as being another copy.
It’s a no-win situation that both incentivizes doing things differently just to be stupid, and ignores the very real benefits that can come from doing the same things but better. Polish competitive features enough, and they become strengths.
On the other side, the Apple unenthusiasts applauded the cover as keyboard. Finally, a company willing to make a no-compromise tablet. It’s like Microsoft heard all those stubborn forum-users who busily theory-crafted their perfect hardware—USB ports, an included keyboard, support for non-tablet apps—and gave it to them. Finally, a piece of hardware that won’t make us choose between a tablet and a laptop.
But here too, there are problems. Nobody’s been able to touch the keyboards yet and tell us if they’re any good. And will allowing mediocre-on-tablet windows apps to run on the tablet lead to a healthy ecosystem of high expectations for quality? Maybe, maybe not.
Every argument for Apple’s focused iPad approach still holds today, and won’t be tested by reality until the Surface hits market. And in the meantime, you can use a keyboard with your existing iPad perfectly well—using either the standard bluetooth keyboard like I do, or with Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.
A lot of the big questions about the Surface—developer uptake, app economics, etc.—are still unanswered. We know more about it now that the announcement has come and gone, but it’s still an idea that allows all parties to have it both ways.