Surface Tension

As an unapologetic Apple fanboy, I am probably not the most expected source for seemingly anti-Apple sentiment. But a fact is a fact, and chief among Apple’s key strategies is waiting for years after a new service, feature or function is adopted and implemented by EVERY other competitive platform before putting their own spin on it and taking all the credit as if it were their own invention. They are almost always the last to the party, but they are always the best dressed, the most interesting, the sexiest and the only one everyone remembers the next day.

I don’t fault Apple for this type of behavior because all they are really doing is letting the other guys take the risks and make the mistakes and gauging public response based on other products before taking all of that knowledge and refining the hell out of their own product before launching it (2 or 3 years after the first one came out). Then WE, not Apple, create the notion that Apple did something new, different and spectacular. Apple is the only tech company not frothing at the mouth to be the first to a milestone. They have the foresight to know that in 5 -10 years, no one will remember who did it first. They will only remember who did it best. No one will ever say, “Did you see Apple’s new Diamond Rio Mp3 Player? It’s called an iPod.”

It’s the same with the upcoming inclusion of turn by turn GPS in iOS 6. Android has had this feature for free since 2009 or so. Apple has outright neglected this feature (like they did video recording, 3G and apps on the early iPhones), but I guarantee you that as soon as people are asking their iPhones, ” Siri, tell me how to get to the nearest Thai place,” they are going to think Apple not only invented GPS, but also the orbits that hold the satellites in place and probably The Moon too just for good measure.

So when Apple finally puts a keyboard in a Smart Cover, don’t be surprised. I feel like that’s the only real standout feature of The MS Surface. I’m sure it will be a perfectly fine tablet, but I promise you the full Windows 8 version will be at least $1000, which makes it more of a competitor to the Macbook Air than the iPad. I also think it’s foolish to release two identical products with the same name when one is essentially a full computer and the other is a tablet running an mobile version of Windows 8. Leave it to MS to create confusion within their own brand. They just don’t have that singular vision that Apple has (or perhaps had… time will tell). I do not think poorly of Windows users or MS fans, but I firmly believe they are children of a lesser Steve. Everything they release seems very “design by committee.” Actually it seems like an outside committee was hired to consult the committee that advised the design by committee committee who worked on the design for four years before being reassigned to a different project, at which point a new committee as brought in to rush the design to completion despite having no idea what it was for in the first place.

COMMENTERS: Is the MS Surface finally going to put Redmond on the hardware map? Are their any standout features of the Surface that have you excited? No? Is that because they really didn’t announce any features, like at all? Weird, huh? Is it just me or is the whole “every device must have a Metro OS” thing a horrible idea? I find the current Xbox dash nearly unusable and it’s as Metro as all get out.

Any other examples of a company or service that was “late to the party” but gets all the credit? 

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  1. I'd say Redmond would have been on the hardware map since they put out the original X-Box, but that'd be pedantic 😉

    The thing with windows systems compared to apple is that windows devices, historically, haven't given a damn about aesthetics. The machines worked as they were made, they worked for cheaper than Apple and put function before form.

    Of course, when you start getting into the market of phones, mp3 players and tablets, you kind of need to take on Apple's advertising juggernaut head on or you're gonna make another Zune.

    • I consider Xbox to be a completely separate entity from MS as a whole (and Im pretty sure they do too).

      The only thing you mentioned that I would take issue with is "[they] worked as they were made,". In my experience a Windows box only works as well as the user's ability to A) fix it when it stops working or B) avoid making it stop working. The reason Apple has stuck with a closed hardware system is that a bad soundcard driver can't ruin my entire computing experience (something I dealt with often as a Windows user for 10+ years). I used to think being able to keep a PC running despite how often hardware and software conflicts tried to prevent it from doing so was a skill to be proud of. Kind of like a cool guy that can keep his classic car running. After switching to Macs I realized that I didn't have to occupy any spare brain cycles or memory with Windows Machine maintenance subroutines any more. I know I lost some of the choice I used to have but the amount of frustration I was able to relieve myself of more than made up for it. I know this isn't everyone's experience, but it made me appreciate a hardware/software combination that was tightly controlled from a single source that wanted me to (above all else) love using their product.

      • Fair call, I've been working with MS systems since DOS 5 so I've slowly worked my way up knowing how to keep things from collapsing so unless something happens like my last laptop where the hard drive died completely (*mutter*) I could either keep it running or bring it back from the dead.

        I'll cop to the fact I've got an iPhone and I'm rather fond of mobile iOS (although my 3GS's battery could use improvement) but for a desktop I could never change sides… might be something to do with the fact most of my Apple desktop experience was with Mac 2's 😛

      • I'm not sure what your last Windows OS was but its come a long way from XP or even Vista. Win 7 is much less fiddly and more Mac like in its user friendliness. Also just for the hell of it I tried installing 7 on my 10+ year old Pentium 4 and it worked perfectly, I think thats pretty cool.

      • When I built my PC, I picked all the equivalent parts to the current iMac at the time. The result: PSU blew up, cpu, mobo failed, and the video card was having none of it. So I'm like, well next time I'll save money and just buy the mac instead of having to buy 1.5 computers over the same timespan when all that stuff breaks 🙂

        • then with the greatest respect, you either bought really dodgy hardware, were really unfortunate or didn't know what you were doing – and it sounds to me like the PSU was at fault and took everything else with it.

          But yes, sometimes it's not worth getting components if it's only saving you a few bucks, or saving you a lot of time and hassle. And not everybody is technically-minded enough to build their own anyway.

        • Equivalent on technical specs doesn't mean equivalent in quality. Usually the hardest part of diy computer assembly (other than not bending any pins) is choosing a quality sufficient power supply. I mean you need to know how many 12V rails what's the amperage per rail, what is the variance in the voltage, what's the efficiency, total power draw, startup time, what kind of warranty, over/under voltage portection, etc, etc ad infinitum. I agree that building your own takes some certain skills and knowledge, but the pay off is amazing. Depending how you shop you can save a significant amount (if you don't use windows you just saved $100-300) you get to pick your own case, guarantee a discrete graphics card, etc, etc. Also an iMac is completely custom hardware, nothing close to off the shelf equivalent.

          • HAH! I just wrote essentially the same thing as a reply to another comment without having read this.

      • I dunno, my experience with Apple computers (iPods and iPads are different, because they're usually pretty cutting edge) is that they're overpriced and underpowered. Especially given how easy it's been to find tutorials for pretty much anything PC related, I can't see why someone would spend double (no joke, I've looked, and they're usually about double a comparable Dell or HP) on a completely closed platform.

        • That's my biggest beef with them. I was brought up to fix things myself, and build it if possible. I resent having to pay extra to buy a product that does less than the competition for the same money, with the added bonus of being even harder to repair – just so it looks shiny. I would be poor as hell if I did that. Doubly so for a company that habitually treats its customers as if they are only borrowing their hardware, and that they have a say in what you do with it.
          Also, +1 for the previous Windows 7 comments. I worked for a computer OEM developing troubleshooting methods since Windows ME, and Windows 7 is the best polished, smoothest running, most efficient bloody OS they've ever produced. Throw it in a $600 computer, and you've got a speed demon that will still play brand new games, or render a 240 megapixel HDR Panoramic image.

        • "they're overpriced and underpowered"

          That argument sort of falls apart when you start to analyze who is buying those products. The only way a current gen apple laptop is underpowered is if you are A) a hardcore PC gamer (most people are not) or B) doing HD video editing (again NOT the majority). The only way they are overpriced is if you are comparing specs on a 1:1 ratio. In terms of "a computer with X processor power and X rams and X hard drive space" they could be considered more expensive. But you have to take into account the design of the product, the quality of components they use, the confidence of hardware and software working together seamlessly, the confidence of all of your devices working together seamlessly, the suite of high end free software included with every mac or available for a very low price from the Mac App store, the cost of the OS itself ($20 for a full version of Mountain Lion?!)… rather than comparing columns in a spreadsheet you need to look at the whole package. And considering Apple is primarily in the laptop business, how many windows laptops can do what a $1000 macbook air can do for the same $1000?

      • Joel

        Microsoft do _not_ consider Xbox to be a separate entity. Its not even a separate business domain within the company. The concept of windows 8 is to have a single integrated experience from PC to XBOX to Tablet to Phone. The integration features that microsoft are talking about with windows 8 are impressive, cant wait to see if they deliver. Offcourse we have heard this all before (windows ME and Vista)

        • "The concept of windows 8 is to have a single integrated experience from PC to XBOX to Tablet to Phone."

          Yeah, NOW it is. Before this year Xbox was the least Microsoft like product they'd ever released.

      • Mine usually run 8-12 years, if you have windows issues clearly you are a dummy and need a dummed down apple. Apple products are for dummies that can not learn the first thing about computers and OS(operating systems), the key difference is Apple is in control of their OS, meaning they can track trace and use all your data…….Windows, we manage, but clearly like 50 % of people with WIndows do no know the first thing about managing a OS. I never have any issues, of course I build my own , some people tend to base their beliefs off the shitty Dell or HP they had, and those are full of low end products and bloatware. My system is 6 years old, still plays all games at ultra at 100FPS +, so if you got issues its most likely you caused them, or you just bought a bad computer, build them. To the guy below who said he used all the apple parts…….well apple uses medium level stuff, you cant build a PC with that…your struggling and making the CPU work to hard, the only reason apple can do this is because the scaled down OS, hardly any user options or settings, no legacy drivers. Basically, most apple rigs have about half the hardware of a PC. However, you could have products twice as good as the apple parts for still like a 1/3 of what an Apple cost, when i built my system, it was 2 years before Apple made one that such a Powerhouse, but of course it costs 7000$ mine cost 1500. Apple is always behind on hardware, and on iphones their apps are behind, same thing, most people issues on Android they caused, by downloading things they didnt know about. Many people get the bare minimum PC and expect to game for 500 dollars, and you can, but nothing on high end. You will be read lining that bad boy all day. Would you drive your car in the redline always? I think not, well if your hardware is not up to par for the load you working it to hard, I never have any issues. So just face it, Apple users are dummies that need someone else to manage how they decide to use their computer. PC, we have the control, we can alter windows and the settings. so go ahead and say apple, you are just showing your ignorance, I have owned both, and my 2000 dollar apple was chugging on games, while my PC was rocking hard.

      • I’ve never owned an Apple computer, but I’ve used them at university and many friend’s houses..without fail, every single Apple computer I used crashed every session I tried to use it. The owners would all say “that’s strange, that doesn’t happen often…it’s still better than Windows!” and I’d remain silent about the decade that had passed since my Windows machine last crashed.

        When I tell Apple fans about my experience, they always suggest it was the previous OS, and the new one doesn’t do that, but it’s been going on for more than ten years. Who knows? Maybe it’s just me. All I know is that if people want to use Apple computers that’s fine with me – if they want to feel superior for using Apple computers they just come across as ridiculous.

        • Oh yeah! Apples do crush. The only difference is you can just power off and restart it unlike Windows. The problem might still be there and you can do the same thing to get it going again. I have a perfectly good MacBook which i could not upgrade OS any further (Apple would like you to buy a new one). Well, I took the OSX out and replaced it with LinuxMint 17 and it works like a charm. No more Apple.

  2. Sears was not the first mail order place in America.

    Amazon was not the first online bookseller.

    McDonald's was not the first burger joint. Although I think they were first to fast food and first to franchising.

    Microsoft was not the first with a GUI, but… (cheap shot).

    • I was researching Fast Food trivia for the trivia night I run. So on that sheer coincidence, I know:

      White Castle was the first to fast food, starting in the early 1920s. They invented the Hamburger Bun and developed the assembly line style kitchen, which de-emphasized the cook and emphasized consistency.

      As for Franchising, it was Howard Johnson that started that in the 1930s.

      • Howard Johnson may have come up with the idea of franchising fast food joints specifically, but in fact the first franchise idea was invented by a woman called Martha Harper in the 1890s. She was a housemaid opened a beauty salon with her life-savings. She wanted to expand but didn't like the idea of hiring people to work as underlings, as she wanted to remain hands-on with the running of her flagship salon. So she came up with the idea of renting out her name and expertise to women (and it was only women) who would own their own salons.

    • First fast food burger, as memory serves, is White Castle. From my understanding, they still haven't franchised- every location is owned by the mother corporation. Some years ago when I had some really awful service with my local location, I wrote an e-mail to their headquarters. Within 15 minutes I had an e-mail back with an apology and a refund for the meal (I had paid via credit card- it was a big order) PLUS an additional gift certificate for the amount equal to the meal I had just ordered. If that's what service is like from a corporation that doesn't franchise, I say to hell with franchises!

      • I had a similar experience from Sonics, which is a franchised chain. I wanted to order some of their discount food on Halloween night for a cheaper lunch at work, but they never got me my order. I had paid for the food, but sat for half an hour before I had to literally speed to work.

        The following morning I went back to the restaurant and explained what happened. They gave me my order and then some.

        With home base establishments you usually have a sure thing with Customer Service. You -can- get the same kind of service from franchised locations, but it depends largely on -that- location. I've been to some McDonalds that were great, and some that have absolutely sucked, as I'm sure many people could say of other franchised establishments.

        So I guess White Castle is still unique like that, but they did sacrifice something by not franchising. For example, I didn't even know they were an actual restaurant until Harold and Kumar came out. I used to think they were a frozen/convenience burger chain trying to edge Krystal out by operating in the supermarket/ home market.

        • Newp. White Castle's was there first. In fact, that frozen gig is brilliant. If you want to try what a real WC burger tastes like, the closest you can get is to take the frozen burger and cook it while still in the plastic, peel the plastic off and eat. It steams it that way.

          To be fair, Harold and Kumar was very much a New York/New Jersey stoner movie. Many of us watching laughed ourselves silly from remembering when something similar had happened to us.

          Damn, I want white castle now. >.<

  3. Apple makes highly polished turds that stupid people – and only stupid people – think are good. You only believe that everyone feels the same as you because you are one of the stupid people Apple targets. Apple is very good at making stupid people buy overpriced inferior crap. Sadly, there are a whole lot of stupid people out there.

  4. I don’t think Microsoft wants to be “on the hardware map”. They want to be like Google, and have people design good hardware for their mobile OS. The only reason MS came out with the Surface is to show the hardware developers how to do it right with Win8.

    That being said, I do not have a tablet yet, not an iPad, not an Android-powered tablet. For the time being, and tablet-like actions I want to do, I’ll do on my smartphone, and real PC stuff I will do on my PC. That being said, I can finally consider a tablet being the best of both worlds with the full Win8 version of the Surface (especially with the Type Cover, which uses true physical keys instead of touch keys). I can see myself buying the full version for standard tablet usage out and about, but then flipping the keyboard around for overly lengthy comments on webcomics, facebook statuses, and the like. Also playing some games that wouldn’t be feisable on a touch screen (You Don’t Know Jack facebook on my smartphone? not great…)

    This device finally makes Win8 look like a reasonable idea, and actually makes me want a tablet. And I can bet that Apple will take one or two ideas from the Surface, like the kick stand. Why didn’t Apple think of that? We will have to see what happens with Windows tablets in the long run, and the hardware, but I’m sure that if it all flops, I can easily put Win7 on that thing. Or maybe even Android OS…

    (Point of view from a dedicated non-Apple person. I don’t own Apple, and I know that while they are no for me, they are great for other people. To each their own.)

    • Actually, if you're looking for lengthier conversations, a tablet PC might be a better idea; I'm currently using Dell's Inspiron Duo, which is a little slow and heavy but performs and looks amazing. But if you crave portability and absolutely need a iPad-sized device on which you can type, then sure, get this.

      Although I can be sure that MS is going to market the shit out of this. Tablet PCs shall go extinct! MS will starve them of profit!

    • As tablets go, I have a BlackBerry Playbook, and love it.

      I think of it sorta like the "HD-DVD" of tablets; when the Blu-ray / HD-DVD war was winding down, prices for the former fell through the floor, and you could get good movies in Blu-ray quality for less than the price of DVDs in the bargain bin. Getting a well-made tablet for less than $200 (got mine for $140 on craigslist, Amazon has them used for $119) while competitors with often inferior specs go for $500 or more? That's a deal. Free tethering / no extra monthly data plan, AND it fits in your pocket? BONUS!

  5. Microsoft seem to have missed the point…

    The ARM-based Windows RT Surface is "just another" tablet, but will be starting from zero with no established App Store/Marketplace (sorry, Google Play) to prop it up on launch. And as it's ARM-based, standard x86 Windows applications won't run on it.

    The Core i5 Windows 8 Surface is priced the same as an Ultrabook, and is therefore too expensive. If I want to pay Ultrabook money I'll get an Ultrabook (or MacBook Air). If I need Core i5 power I'll get a laptop. If I need a tablet with full computing power (not just a glorified toy) I'll get one of those hybrid system laptops with reversible touchscreen displays.

    HOWEVER, I love the idea of the full WIndows 8 surface if it came down to top-end iPad prices. That keyboard cover is slick as hell (even better idea than the Asus Transformer and those iPad keyboard docks) and it'd be nice to have some real compute power in a slate form factor.

    Although it's the Acer W700 that will set the bar for full computer slates, not the big Surface.

  6. "I also think it’s foolish to release two identical products with the same name…" But you have to agree with the brilliance in which they fake launched a revolutionary giant table with a touch screen that was going to redefine our bar and restaurant experience, when in reality they were just using the name as a placeholder for a stealth launch of a tablet device many years later. What better brand awareness could a tablet have than having the same name as a giant piece of furniture? "God, I expected it to be huge, and in comparison it is tiny!" [that's what she said]

    Watch out for 2015 – the future PixelSense is going to be an amazing version of the Apple TV.

    • I thought the surface was going to revolutionize everything until I saw the $10K price tag. That pretty much kept it out of our restaurants and homes forever.

      • @ hijinksensue

        Also, they tend to frown on you using your dick to draw crude stick figures with. Which I still contend is their fault when at a trade show they ask if anyone wants to try it out.

        • Er, no, that's the fault of the person who decided to whip it out, and the fault of said person's parents, for not beating them enough as a kid to instill in them the idea that there is a time and a place for everything. For example! I don't introduce myself by admitting "I love tits above a D cup, and I'm into hard and fast sex." A trade show? NOT one of those times such is appropriate.

  7. Agreed, as someone who's been a fan of the Microsoft Surface table for a number of years now (a fan in theory, as I could never afford one), it's even more confusing that their tablet name brings to mind a table.

  8. I think the Surface is probably the best product for the Metro OS, because it's really only for devices with a touchscreen. I don't plan on upgrading any of my computers to Windows 8, and the Xbox Dash is only moderately useless.
    I will say I think using the Surface name is odd, just because there are billions of other names they could have used (Xbox Tab if they wanted to emphasize Smartglass or something).
    Also, did anyone ever get a chance to use the Surface table? Those look so cool but I've never seen one in real life.

    • I like Surface, it fits nicely in with the Windows naming scheme. Many bloggers are harping on the fact that its a recycled name when it really isn't. The Surface table was never a consumer product I doubt the average consumer has ever heard of it.

      • I'll give you that, I just think it's strange because they did have another product with the same name.

        Also, pretty much all of my knowledge of the original Surface (now called, no joke "PixelSense") came from the demo video they released probably in like 2006 or so.

  9. In the end its going to come down to Pricing, Polish, and Marketing. I'm not convinced theres going to be any brand confusion though. These days who goes into an electronics store without at least doing a little research on whatever they are thinking of buying.

    • "In the end its going to come down to Pricing, Polish, and Marketing." the three things MS has always been terrible at. Granted Windows PC's are cheaper than Macs but none of that is because of Microsoft.

      "These days who goes into an electronics store without at least doing a little research on whatever they are thinking of buying." Prick up your ears next time youre in a Best Buy and you'll realize how little people know about technology. They want to buy a toaster. They dont want to be an expert on toasters.

  10. "Then WE, not Apple, create the notion that Apple did something new, different and spectacular. Apple is the only tech company not frothing at the mouth to be the first to a milestone."

    Definitely true in many regards. The iPod, AppleTV, iPad and iCloud are definitely good examples.

    However, I feel that they are definitely frothing to be first at many things and it's when they're not that they over-design to compensate. For example, they were the first to: Drop Floppy Drives, Embrace Wi-Fi, and Drop the Ethernet Port (verdict is still out on that decision), the iPhone was like nothing before it and defined the current generation of Smartphone, and the Macbook Air created the Ultrabook category of computers.

    • It did evolve the smartphone, but it was a logical step from what Palm, RIM and others had developed at the end of the last century.

      They strapped a cellphone's functionality into the iPod Touch, which slapped an MP3 player and a PDA into one, easy to use device. Don't get me wrong, I think that both the iPod and iPhone were both very, very important landmarks in hand-held device history. They were not, however, the first device in their class. Rather than revolutionary, though, I would say that Apple evolved technology. Apple added a very refined touch screen technology – something they may have reinvented, but did not invent – to an MP3 player. Then, it added a decent processor to the mess, which boosted its capability and virtually replaced the old term "executable" overnight with their App Store. Finally, they managed – somehow – to cram a phone into the thing, and made one of the most identifiable smartphones ever.

      I forget what my point was; I'm dizzy and confused from praising Apple.

      (I'll admit, though, that Apple was before Microsoft in the very early days)

      • When people say Apple's stuff isn't revolutionary but "evolutionary," it's usually in a dismissive way, so when I hear it, I always want to know a good example of a technology that they DO consider "revolutionary."

        All advances in every field are by dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.

        • I'll give them that, Apple is very good at looking at what others have done, and repackaging/rejiggering them in a more market-friendly manner. That in itself is quite the skill.

          Honda started out the same way – he went around to other countries, looked at how they made motorcycles, picked what he liked, and put them together in a new way – often with the goal of making his motorcycles friendly to inexperienced riders. To this day, Honda holds the record for the most produced motorcycle ever (Honda Cub).

        • Vacuum tubes to solid state semiconductors is revolutionary.

          CRT to detailed LCD displays is revolutionary.

          Walkman to MP3 player is revolutionary. It evolved into arguably its apex form, the iPod, years after the first (says Wikipedia).

          Evolution isn't bad. It's not invention, but there is certainly something to be said for great innovation after the initial invention. For instance, few people realize that the first modern-style (single turret) tank was actually a French invention. It was refined and made better by other countries. Germany didn't invent the modern battle tank, but it did make the battle tank's image.

          • Your three examples are good, but it does gloss over the fact that — at least for LCDs and MP3 players, there were many iterations where they were not, in fact, better than the technology they replaced — cost aside, even. (I don't know anything about vacuum tubes vs. solid state semiconductors, but I'd wager they weren't immediately better straight out of the gate, either.)

            LCDs were black and white and VERY limited in utility. They were good for watches, and similar things, little more. It was two decades before the technology had improved to the point where they were as good as CRTs for everyday use — and even longer before anybody who needed color accuracy (photo retouchers, for instance) could use them instead of CRTs.

            So, there's really more of a gradual improvement in technology in those two examples, too.

            • Yes, but they were swaps in the kind of technology. The information you have put forth further weighs upon how important evolution is in technology. Occasionally, one technology will replace another – that's what I define as revolution. In the case of semiconductors, I did know about them, but now I forget. However, their introduction (after they figured out how to make a lot of them) allowed for the proliferation of miniaturization. The same can be said for CRT, since it relied upon electron gun technology which I really really don't understand. Once you can digitally tell which little pixel to light up at what intensity, you have the potential. That potential eventually evolved into something that could out-compete the older technology.

              This is a little off my prime here; it's more of a philosophical debate on what's evolution, and what's revolution. I'm sure someone could more accurately correct me on my facts.

            • Semiconducting transistors took a while to catch on in a number of applications. Early transistors were very good at low-power applications (radios, hearing aids, etc.), but were not very good at higher-power applications. Moving from germanium to silicon helped, and improved efficiency meant less power lost as heat. Even still, many radio transmitters all the way into the 1970s would be a hybrid – solid-state front end, tube based power amplifier.

              Revolutionary? I'd say the guy that invented the useful Blue LED -Shuji Nakamura. He figured out how to make them, reliably and cheaply. Without him, no blue lasers, white LEDs, LED backlights, LED TVs, the works. So, next time you watch a Blu-Ray on your LED TV, thank him. Poor bugger had to fight in court for years to get paid for it!

  11. But I wish Apple had known that everyone else was going to use the word "tablet". I would much rather have an iTab than an iPad.

    • I hated it at first, but once you repeat or hear something 1000 times it just becomes the name of the thing and you stop thinking about it.

      Oddly enough, Apple trademarked "iPod" as a name for a kiosk where you would go sit in a little booth and get internet or somesuch.

  12. What a well thought out and cohesive argument! I congratulate on your ability to communicate in an effective, nonbiased way, and to cite valid, documented sources to support your arguments! Well done!

  13. Joel, could you and your readers/commenters please stop being so interesting and well-informed? I'm trying to study.

  14. I was so frustrated the other day with Engadget. They were so in love with the magnetic data connectors on the Surface, but they hated the idea when HP did it on the Veer.

    • Ever since I had a magsafe connect on my first macbook pro, ive wished that all my iPod and iPad cables did the same thing.

  15. When Apple do announce the 'SmartCover', a lot of pundits will be thrilled to point out that 'Microsoft did it first' — only they didn't. There are plenty of iPad 'SmartCovers' out there from third party iPad peripheral manufacturers — it's already an old idea.

    • There are keyboard covers for the iPad, but they really are just smallish keyboards that are wedged inside an iPad case. The touch cover MS is releasing really is a new take on the concept and I wouldnt be at all surprised if its the one piece of tech from the Surface that really takes hold in the public mindset.

  16. "I don’t fault Apple for this type of behavior because all they are really doing is letting the other guys take the risks and make the mistakes and gauging public response based on other products before taking all of that knowledge and refining the hell out of their own product before launching it (2 or 3 years after the first one came out)"

    This would be fine if Apple wasn't actively involved in suing other companies who do exactly the same thing to them. When you say "Apple", I think "hypocrites".
    And "pie". Always "pie".

    • I think my favorite was when Apple tried to claim they invented the computer mouse. Never mind that it was invented before Jobs and Woz built their first Apple I…

      • No one ever said they INVENTED it. Unless Im mistaken, they got it from Xerox or IBM and released the first commercially available mouse.

        • My bad- I was misinformed by an Engineer I was working with. Xerox did, however, release the mouse commercially, but with their Star series workstations – but they were pretty pricey, and it was a hard sell. Apple should get credit, however, for bringing the mouse down to the level of a Personal Computer.
          Still, I think Apple's legal protests with the tourism board of NYC for use of their "green apple" logo (that stretched out for 3 years) shows that apple does tend to go overboard.
          "Guys you named your company after a fruit. I doesn't mean the produce stands need to pay you royalties"
          I just think they should spend less time suing people and more time figuring out that people don't want to tap out commands in Morse code on their iPod shuffles…

    • Not to be totally useless, but this really is, at least in hardware, something of a lighter, more portable tablet laptop concept. It has a physical keyboard which can be unfolded for those that need either more screen space or a more tactile typing experience. Its price tag won't be unfamiliar, by the way, to early adopters.

  17. As someone who owned a Diamond Rio, then a RioVolt, and probably 3 other MP3 players before the iPod came out, it annoys me that the real innovator is now a footnote in history (sold, merged, bankrupted) and the world seems to credit Apple with inventing the MP3 player. It frustrates me that I have to use the word 'podcast' when (IMO) it should be 'riocast'.

    Then it annoys me that they have forced me to act all hipstery. (Hipsterish? Hipsterectomy? Hipsterectomy needs to be a real word!)

    • I honestly cannot see why the word Zen is not irrecoverably tied to digital music devices. Small, rugged, good battery life and not tied to propitiatory standards or software, I only gave it up when the battery finally died. I think people just liked the Apple advertising.

      • Well, the Zune is actually the part of the Toshiba Gigabeat series hardware, and that was a pretty good series. I still use my old 10GB Gigabeat F10. It's been reflashed with an open-source firmware to make it more functional, and I can even play DooM II on it ;).
        It's too bad you got rid of the Zune, I wouldn't be surprised if you could replace the battery for very little $$.

        • He said Zen, not Zune. Which brings up another thing: that stuff Joel said Apple does up there? It may be a trap Apple falls into frequently, but it's practically Microsoft's entire business model nowadays. Hop into a new market for no reason and then force your brand into public consciousness with ridiculous amounts of marketing. Xbox, Zune, Silverlight, Bing. (It doesn't always work.) And in the case of the Zune, all it accomplished was killing what little brand recognition Apple's other competitors might have held on to.

          • Derp, that's what I get for reading comments half-asleep.
            I agree that shoehorning in brands is problematic. It reminds me of Sony in a way – always reinventing media storage, so you have to buy their memory cards, etc. The dumber part is that the media was (such as memory stick) based on existing tech and added nothing in performance.
            Kodak did the same thing all throughout the 20th Century, constantly inventing new types of film so they could be the only ones that made it, no matter how bad the film was compared to what everyone else made.

          • "Hop into a new market for no reason and then force your brand into public consciousness with ridiculous amounts of marketing"

            Im sure this will rub some people the wrong way, but the difference in MS and Apple when they do the EXACT SAME THINGS is that Apple comes off as cool because it seems like they arent trying (even though they have spent millions and millions in R&D and Marketing and figuring out what people will think is cool, which is DEFINITELY trying), and MS comes off like "MNAHHHHH! We did everything we were supposed to and you STILL don't think we're cool!? We made weird ads and made products in off colors and blah blah blah blah and YOU STILL WON'T GO OUT WITH ME!?!?!?! MNEEEEEEHHHHH!!!!"

            I can't tell if that's all due to our perception (ie It is so because we make it so as a consumer base) or if Apple has cracked a code long ago that MS will never be able to crack, which is to come off like you don't care if anyone thinks you're cool or not, because you know you are. It's the same confidence that creates genuinely interesting and magnetic people. It's the same confidence Steve Jobs had that Steve Ballmer will never have. You pop out a brand new Apple product in a coffee shop or on an airplane and people WANT to talk to you about it. You pop out a Fujitsu notebook running windows 8 and you immediately go into stealth mode. No one even notices.

      • "I think people just liked the Apple advertising."

        That and the culture/sexiness they create around a product. They're basically the only tech company where a person would feel ashamed to say they had something other than an iPod, since it would feel like admitting you had a knockoff even if the product was an equal or superior tech. It's pretty evil and incredibly genius on their part.

    • I love my old Rio, even though I don't use it much. It fits easily in a pocket, or the armband.
      Had another MP3 player after that, it was awful and complicated…the only reason I have an iPod is because someone gave me their old one. I always worry about breaking it(compared to the durability of the Rio), rarely use it…play cds more.

  18. The Xbox dash would be considerably better if one could move where items are. I don't listen to music, and I don't watch videos on it, (HBO GO is an exception, but that's trailed off now that Game of Thrones is over and that's an app, not the movie section,) so to have the Game blade so far away from the home blade is very, very stupid.

    That's why Major's Minute and the other one died out. They were too well hidden in nested blades. Shit's just too spread out.

    I love OS X, but I've had issues with numerous hardware things with my Macbook Pro; the battery died, and both the power cord and video card have recalls and/or class action lawsuits against them to get them replaced. My video card still effes up.

    Anyway, the Win-blet is kinda cool, too expensive and I REALLY hope its not the sole tablet that works with that tablet thing they announced at E3.

    • "The Xbox dash would be considerably better if one could move where items are."

      And am I insane or are things not ALWAYS in the same place? It seems like what shows up in what square is determined by some sort of algorithm.

  19. I am usually not one to leave comments as such, especially when they are about topics that tend to escalate to almost war-like magnitude. Yet, this time I can’t help myself but add my two cents to the discussion.

    First let me address something that Joel noticed, which I have to agree on after reading numerous comments on “The Verge” and “Engadget”: Microsoft definitely should have given the two devices not the same name but gone with names that easier differentiated the devices in the consumer’s eyes, such as “MS Surface Pro” and “MS Surface Tab”. If they would have coupled this with different color schemes, people could easier tell the hardware apart and not get confused that easily. Additionally, the lack of definite hardware specs and release dates ( or announcing a device this far before a release date) is slightly frustrating.

    Now I would like to address various points that I think seem to get lost in this entire thing. Both units are in its purest form technology demonstrators. Microsoft is dogfooding its own products and is putting their money where their mouth is. They are asking their vendors to trust in the huge paradigm shift that the new metro interface will be for Windows 8, and are willing to show them that if the devices fit people will be more than willing to buy them.

    For this purpose they managed to create in my opinion beautiful yet professional looking products that seem to be built ( at least from what we know) with excellent materials. Gorilla Glass 2 and magnesium casing are pretty good ingredients for durability. I am for one curious to see what the rest of the specs are and believe if Microsoft manages to make the prices reasonable, they may have a winner here.

    Please bare in mind that the i5 version and ARM version are for two different markets: i5 tablets will sell. Yes they are similar to ultrabooks, but the form factor will especially in the corporate sector be more than just attractive. Plus the x86 nature of that version will make it easy to just find software for it.

    The ARM version does not have Apple’s market, but I would like to point out that neither did Apple when they started out. The market grew and if people like the tablets, I predict it might even grow faster due to the sheer simplicity of utilizing the .net architecture to create programs and the ability to run HTML5 and JS applications. How this will pan out we need to see, but I would not declare the product DOA.

    I will admit that I do not own any Apple products at this moment but have my fair share of experience with systems running mac, iOS, Windows, Win Mobile, WP7, various Android versions and several Linux distros. Please consider this as a disclaimer for the next couple of paragraphs.

    Despite, admittedly, not being an Apple fan as such, I can be honest and admit that judging on sheer design, Apple is brilliant. The iPad and iPhone 4s are in my opinion beautiful devices, that feel solid, and definitely have a place in the market. Many device makers for Android and Windows can learn much from Sir Ive and really should do so.

    Here is where I have a problem with Apple products though and I know that not everyone will necessarily agree. Apple works. Fine, I admit that, but what do people trade for this? The choice what can be done with the devices they pay for? The need for permission from Uncle Apple when they want to do something cool? The probability that Apple will delete your (previously approved) application from the iTunes the moment that they release a new feature that would compete with it? I have a personal problem with that to be honest.

    Benjamin Franklin once said :”Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither”. I think that especially in the age of mobile technology we should reuse this phrase as “Those who exchange their freedoms for comfort deserve neither.” Sure other products will not always work as well as Apple products. Windows computers can crash, Android devices may feel just not that well put together, but in the end, what you do with the products and what you load on them is up to you. You want it prettier? You can do that. You want to customize it down to the last pixel? Feel free to do that. You need a better graphics card? Just put one in. You want to run this printer with your mac? Sorry, no can do, but you are free to purchase another one that Apple supports. – Sorry, I rather have to do a little work myself and retain my right to choose.

    That all does not mean that I will not buy some Apple product some day. To be honest, if Apple would finally allow third party apps and widgets, I would love an iPhone 4s just for the sheer beauty of it. Maybe an iPhone 5 ( or will it be just “The new iPhone”? who knows).

    Joel stated earlier that what mac did change everything for him concerning how easy it was to use and how reliable it was. I do understand the need for that as in the end not everyone is willing or has the time to spend an average of two hours per week making sure that just everything continues to work perfectly. Some people just want to be able to access what they need and not wanting to become a computer specialist. That’s what we geeks are for anyway 😉

    There are more lessons that the companies need to take from Apple: I own an Asus Transformer Prime- which supposedly is still the vanguard of Android tablets and can clearly say that Android does not have its act together when it comes to tablets, thanks to Google’s ridiculous notion of scalable apps. iPad apps are beautiful and designed to the screen size. Despite pretty uniform resolutions and screen sizes with Android tablets, you won’t find many apps that are real tablet apps and not just scaled up versions.

    I hope that MS understands the need and importance of UX when putting out the apps guidelines for their new market. They definitely should learn from Apple there. But then again, hey, the Surface presentation definitely channeled a bit of Steve Jobs, so maybe MS will get it (finally) right by emulating just a little bit more.

    • Benjamin Franklin?…
      …anyway I have never plugged or wifi’d my MacBook(s) to a printer that it didn’t support. Indeed my experiences with printing from windows based computers is much more convoluted so…

    • Our Lord Nikola will return in blazing bright arcs of glory to destroy those who refuse to acknowledge him as really pretty nice if eccentric and Edison as kind of a jerk although more shrewd in business.

      • Foolish little Teslalyte, the bastions of Edisonian might are impenetrable, you will only crash against them and be broken.


          Ha! Fun. Anyway, I read this great book by Jill Jonnes, Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World, and it was basically the history of how we got from "Hey, this sparky stuff is neato!" to generating millions of watts. My takeaway was that
          a) Tesla was every bit the genius we like to think he was, but would have benefited from having a Pepper Potts type to keep his shit together. For all we know, his best stuff was lost for want of getting it written down.
          b) Edison was pretty damn smart too, and good at building a team full of talent. His competitive streak drove him to cross some lines, and in the end it didn't save him from JP Morgan stealing his whole company right out from under him.
          c) Westinghouse was also pretty damn smart, and a good business man, and for the most part a stand up guy.
          d) Geniuses don't sleep very much. Since I'm non-functional without my 8 hours, I'm probably not going to be revolutionizing anything sciency.

  20. Great and funny comic.

    I’d agree with Apple eventually copying the keyboard, except for one thing. Patents. It’s the reason Apple has never been able to include a pressure sensitive stylus in one of their products. I have a friend who works at Apple who told me as much, around the time Steve Jobs was proclaiming “if it has a stylus, they blew it.” Users want something that you can’t integrate due to patent litigation? Go the opposite way and proclaim it somehow bad. They also did this with Flash, but for different reasons. ( Video / game lock in / App store revenue )

    The Ipad / Apple machines will never likely be nice tablet / art / sketchbook / tablet workstations. Microsoft invented the form factor for the first tablets quite some time ago, and this round is looking close to perfect. I dunno, I’ve never had to really worry with MS and the OS upgrade thing either. Remember when Apple switched to Intel chips when all the while they were saying PPC chips were faster? I had lots of artist buddies burned that had to buy new machines to run Intel versions of software when the switch happened. Also, the killing of the rosetta / app compatibility thing with Lion. I could go on. But maybe I’m a bit of an anti-apple zealot. A pinch.. 🙂

  21. So funny, so true.

    If I'm reading things right, Surface Pro has Wacom pen functionality built in – so that's a quad-core PC with pressure-sensitive digitiser for way less than the price of a Cyntiq.

    Full-on geek chubby.

    I'm going to install ZBrush on that, then disappear into my Geek Cave for a protracted period until the device fails from excess moisture in it's perimeter vents.

    • My friend Rob has a Windows Tablet PC with Wacom tech built in and it's basically the perfect travel comic production machine. My friend Lar uses one too, but I dont think it has Wacom. The EEE Slate maybe? Either way, if I had a spare grand lying around I would probably grab one of these just so I could make comics on the road.

      • HP (used to, at least) make the TX2000 convertible notebook. It was a real gem – Win 7 compatible, and it had built-in Wacom touchscreen. It was a nice machine to work with. I worked with from HP, it was probably one of the best (I used to torture test them). If you find one cheap, they're worth picking up, so long as you are okay with a 12.1" screen and the extra weight (since it's a full notebook). Out of all the consumer notebooks

  22. I'm fairly dedicated to Android, although iOS has always had it's good points. Different strokes for different folks. That said, Window's attempts at mobile OS have so far been extremely underwhelming. Based on the bias that their current smartphones could legitimately cause, I see them having HUGE difficulty competing in a market where android tablets are still at about half the market share of iPads (despite android phones having overtaken iPhones). Their biggest problem is that their current Mango smartphones are so much more LIMITING than either android or iOS (missing basic features like the ability to set mp3 files as ringtones or a fully-developed app offering), that it's really the exact opposite of what you'd expect from MS. The reason to use Windows or Linux over Apple is all the freedom and flexibility. Android has that in spades, while Windows mobile OS doesn't.

    Even if Windows 8 is way better than anything they've done so far in mobile tech, I think they'll have a hard time getting people to try it or to develop for it. Same problem HP had when they tried to develop for webOS (Palm), although MS isn't failing as catastrophically. The touch cover *does* look pretty awesome, though, and hopefully for me android tablets will pick that up faster than Apple will (MS already makes money off patents used in android phones, why not android tablets?). Having a full OS on a mobile device is interesting too, though… a real laptop/tablet hybrid. I hope you're not right that they'll make that version cost a laptop price. To be competitive at all, the mobile version should come out for $400 and the full for $500. If they are smart…

  23. I'm actually really confused by this sentiment: Apple "invented" the tablet business. No one wanted to touch it until Apple proved there was money to be made. Give me some more examples of Apple standing pat? I don't see it.

    • Tablets, yes. That was their baby and because of it ipad is to tablet as Kleenex is to tissue. The argument could be made, however, that the iPad was their response to the netbook craze of a few years ago. Everyone was making tiny, underpowered computers (barely) running full versions of Windows and Apple just sat by and waited for a stand out product. When one didn't emerge (netbooks are a totally flawed platform in my opinion, though I think something like a Chromebook might actually have a valid place in the market) Apple sidestepped the entire genre and released the iPad.

  24. I work for a large multinational corporation in IT Delivery and Security. Apple products are special nightmare for us.
    Windows is the network choice for large enterprise because it is totally reconfigurable within its variant base. That means if i want to deploy a machine remotely via a MAC address that only runs windows 7 but has a XP skin on it that only allows theuser access to Internet Explorerer and will only run to one internal website. I can do it with a mix of group policy and defined networking parameters I can do that.

    As soon as i plug a MAC especially a modern MAC product into my network it start to mess with things, because MAC does things their way. Sure you can join it to the domain, and you can even mess with some GPU and OU settings to restrict or enable access but you simply do not have the variable ability that a MS OS desktop has. Thats the plain and simple truth.

    The cool, the really cool thing about the Surface Pro tablet is this. Configurable and manageable within the your domain. That means i can give the CEO of HR a Tablet and not worry about the idio… guy loosing it at a pub. I can make sure and insist on password strength and App deployment from within native windows management.

    So im exited for the surface pro. Because it will make my job easier. I can finally get a "cool" tablet into the hands of my staff and not risk massive security breaches in the process.

  25. I believe SEGA was the video game company whose game systems were ahead of their time, often the 1st of their generation, like Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Any of you young whipper-snappers remember the Game Gear? 1st portable sysytem to have COLOR. I think they also built the 1st full-body motion controller, but I forget it's name since I didn't have one. Do you other Fancy Bastards agree about SEGA?
    I just want to say that one more time: SEGA!!!

    • Sega suffered from being "too first" to everything. They developed and deployed new tech faster than the market was ready for it and because of it nearly all of their consoles suffered in obscurity. The Genesis, due to its release window, was equally a competitor of the NES and the SNES. It was clearly superior to the NES, but not as widely adopted as the SNES. No one actually had the Sega CD or the 32X, so they really didnt have a dog in the race during the N64 days. Then the Dreamcast came out and was clearly superior to the PSX and GameCube, but only for a short window before the PS2 came out. This odd "in between generations" strategy seems to be carried over to Nintendo now as they release consoles with Nextgen features and lastgen or below hardware.

        • Correct. Order of release in North America:
          Saturn '94
          PSX '95
          N64 '96
          Dreamcast '99
          PS2 '00
          Xbox '01
          GameCube '01

          Sega had a dog in the race in the N64 days, but it was overpriced, under-promoted and shunned by developers. And looking at that list, seems like Nintendo's nextgen features / lastgen hardware habit started long before they ate Sega.

          • As someone who owns all of Nintendo's hardware releases, though, I can confidently say that the GameCube was leaps and bounds above the Nintendo 64. In fact, the first system of theirs that I know for a certainty uses lastgen hardware is the Wii, which is essentially a glorified GameCube with some new playing features.

  26. So, this comic is really funny now, since Apple was recently granted a patent for a new version of the Smart Cover that will actually make it difficult to Microsoft to bring their keyboard cover to market. Apparently, back in Q3 2011, Apple filed for a patent for a Smart Cover with solar panels and touch-sensitive displays built into it. Check it out:

    The only bit about this comic that was incorrect is that Apple filed for the patent BEFORE Microsoft announced their keyboard cover, so I don't think they stole the idea from them or anything. Still, it's pretty funny.

  27. So it's official, then. Apple is the new "Big Brother" (I think that's what they were called in 1984.) Talk about irony. I remember that commercial back in the 80's. Way to go, Mr. Jobs. The populace has turned your old company into the very thing they once sad was bad.

      • It was an external keyboard. I’ll bet there will be third party ones for the iPad Pro that also are essentially external keyboards with full keys. The only difference is the original iPad one was vertical this one is horizontal (as was the Surface).

    • They weren’t thin and light though. The TypeCover is connected by magnets to the Surface but most iPad keyboard from before made the iPad substantially thicker or would also need a wrap around case for the back.

    • Correct. And because no one (essentially) was using them, Apple dropped them fron the iPad 2. We’ll see what happens this time.

      I mean, keep in mind that MS Surface took off no more than the keyboard for the original iPad did. If the iPad Pro does take off *with the new keyboard* it will be the first one that does in three tries from two different companies.

    • Yes, there were plenty of keyboard covers and cases some years before the Surface. They were all made by 3rd parties, though. This is the first one that Apple made themselves. Apple has always had the ability to connect an external Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad.

  28. What is difficult about the Xbox UI? Everything is just a few navigation presses away and if something frequently falls out of the MRU list you can pin it for quick access (useful if you have many games installed).

    Same with Windows 8. What is the problem? I’ve only heard people complain about full screen start menu but they can’t seem to define what it is they don’t like about it except “it feels wrong”. A friend of mine thought it was because you can’t watch porn while searching for the next program to start (which you actually can if you use Win+S -> type a few chars instead of Win -> type a few chars).

    I hope Microsoft doesn’t do a Windows 10 and drop all useful features on Xbox to make luddites happy.

  29. That’s funny because with my last Mac, my “video card would have none of it”. The one before that had a busted NIC. I might be interested in MacOS by itself but I would not go near Mac hardware or PC hardware built like it again.

  30. Ha, he predicted it would be called the Smart Cover Touch, but the real name is Smart Keyboard. So much for amazing predictions.

  31. Love that this is a three-year prophecy…

    Of course, I’m typing this comment on a Surface Pro 2, Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, with Type Cover and THREE-button Wacom stylus, 64GB microSD installed, connected HDMI secondary monitor, USB keyboard, USB mouse, USB3 flash memory, USB security dongle for corporate VPN, wired into a 1000-BASE-T network, multitasking with Visual Studio 2013, Chrome, Google apps, (haven’t used the Apple-touted MS Office for YEARS now), ZBrush, SBPro, and Manga Studio 5 EX on full Windows 10. I’m about to pick up my Surface and go to lunch and do a little sketching with it.

    My SP2 with the above specs, stylus, and Type Cover cost me $700 from New Egg, new, not refurbished.

    Granted, the iPad Pro has a nice and big screen, but an iPP with as close to the above specs as possible (which is “Not Very”) will run you $1150, IF they throw in the Pencil for free.

    The “iPad Pro: Surface Killer” articles have already begun.

  32. The comic is prescient and funny.

    But before the usual suspects descend and foam at the mouth about Apple, please realise that third parties have been making cover keyboard accessories for the iPad pretty much since there has been an iPad. So pretending that Apple ripped off Microsoft rather than jumped on a wagon it’s third party vendors had already established is kind of pointless. Never mind the fact that had Apple released a “Pro” iPad that *didn’t* have a keyboard and a connector for same, we’d be hearing the same level of carping about it’s lack.

  33. My first tablet with stylus and flip back keyboard was in 2002, another vision by Gates, meaning they started working on it the 90s. I loved it, a full computer in tablet format, it was a clunky marvel and I was certain it would change the direction of computing hardware but Microsoft eventually killed it as just another experiment like they often do.

    Then Apple did their thing and came out with gorgeous, simple, dependable, but frustratingly limited, tablets that took the market by storm. Microsoft forehead smacks, like they often do, kicked each others ass and corralled the engineers and MBAs.

    I have switched once again and now my sole device besides my phone is my Surface Pro 4, docked with 3 monitors during the day for my analytics, and as a lightweight undocked tablet to sketch notes and paint at night.

    I have zero doubt that someone will best this hybrid at some point. It’s Apple’s turn again.

    Joel Watson, how about taking another poke at the future and giving the next design team a hand?

    When I asked Cortana what is the next computer Apple will make, she replied, “NeXT” !!

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