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Yesterday, or today depending on your time zone, Microsoft held a press conference in Hollywood. The whole thing had been very mysterious. The press were given extremely short notice to book their flights and get to the location in time, and nobody knew what all the fuss was about.
Now that we know what the announcement was, it’s not worth going through all the theories that journalists and bloggers were forming in an attempt to work out what the heck was going on. One thing was for sure, Microsoft managed showed it could keep a secrete as well as Apple does.
The device turned out to be a tablet – the Microsoft Surface – which is clearly capitalising on the brand name that Microsoft developed for its table-sized touch devices that it produces in conjunction with Samsung. I monitored the initial reactions of both the live blogs, and the bloggers I speak to on Twitter – and those reactions were unprecedented for a Microsoft device. Everybody wanted one.
Mind you, the reactions were qualified, there are still some unanswered questions about this device, and they mostly come down to cost. Microsoft didn’t really give us any useful information about that – all they said was that the price would be comparable with Ultra book devices – which makes it sound way too expensive.
And it’s money were Microsoft could still screw all of this up. Apple can get away with charging a premium, it’s loyal user base is conditioned into paying those prices – I don’t think there’s another company, including Microsoft, who can get away with that.
I think, with the Surface, Microsoft could have a run-away hit on its hands, but only if they can sell them by the shed load. Which really, Microsoft NEEDS to do because it is already taking a risk by putting Metro UI on its next major release of Windows, and it’s struggling to get Windows Phone 7 (which Metro UI also runs atop of) to some degree of decent market share.
There is understandable inertia in getting Metro UI adopted by consumers – especially as there are still productivity question marks over it, and the dual Metro/desktop nature of Windows 8. The argument over Metro is still far from settled.
Therefore, Microsoft need to get as many people as possible using Metro, and since they’ve gone to the trouble of designing and producing what seems to be a very sexy looking tablet, there couldn’t be better way.