Between covers of the Behemoth's ambition
By Adarsh Matham
01st July 2012 12:00 AM
You were born in the USSR at the height of the Cold War. You have been taught since you are two that communism is the greatest thing in the world, that USSR is the greatest country in the world, and that capitalism is the worst way to live. So imagine your surprise if you were to wake up one day to find that the Berlin wall is gone, the cold war has thawed, and you are now living in a capitalist country that thinks McDonalds is the height of civilisation.
Microsoft fanboys (Yes, such a tribe exists) would have felt the same when its crazy boss, Steve Ballmer, stood in front of tech journalists and announced, “We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when hardware and software are considered together”. That is because by uttering these words, he has just confirmed what Alan Kay, Steve Jobs, Apple and it’s fanboys have been maintaining for the last 30-odd-years. That hardware and software should be made by the same company so that they work well together.
After famously making only software in the form of it’s Windows OS for the last two decades which has been installed on machines made by hardware manufacturers like HP and Dell, thereby leading to billions of crap computers in use today, Microsoft finally came around to Apple’s position. And to prove the point, it released it’s first indigenously-made tablet computer called Surface (not to be confused with the huge displays it used to make, now called PixelSense).
On the face of it, this was an impressive launch from Microsoft. Surface, which comes in two flavours, a Windows RT and a Windows 8 Pro model, is packed in a very nicely put together all-magnesium VaporMg case that is just 9.3 mm thick. The RT model is more akin to an iPad, runs on ARM chips and is to be used as a touchscreen tablet.
The Pro model, with it’s Ivy Bridge chips on the other hand is an ambitious product that wants to be the new PC, using the capabilities of Windows 8 to be both a PC and a touchscreen tablet. Unlike tablets available in the market today, both these have extra features like USB ports and micro SD slots. Further, they come with two types of covers called the Touch cover, which is a smart cover with an embedded keyboard and the Type cover, with a full-fledged keyboard. By spending an unnatural amount of time on the covers, the built-in stand and the sound it makes when closed, Microsoft wanted to prove that it is serious about hardware design and user experience.
Except, as is always the case when Microsoft is involved, there are some problems, like the lack of solid pricing and availability details. The major problem though could be Microsoft’s main customers in the past three decades. Called Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), these companies like HP, Dell and Acer manufacture computers with Windows OS. Already under humongous pressure to make quality tablets with Windows 8 that could compete quality-wise and price-wise with the iPad, they will now have a new competitor in the form of Microsoft, which would also be selling them licenses for Windows for every tablet they make. Would the OEMs be happy with that? Would the Surface lead to a big change in the way we perceive PCs? And is it an iPad killer? Only time will tell.
The writer is a tech geek. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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