It was nuts. It was ambitious. It was awesome.
The whole time, all I could think was: Where has Microsoft been hiding guys like this?
After Monday’s announcement of the Surface tablet and its accessories, it seems the company is ready to bring some of its wild thinkers out of hiding.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or on an Internet-free vacation, you should know Microsoft just decided to enter the tablet game in a big way by introducing its own hardware to the market, designed to run Windows 8. The company also showed off some innovative accessories, such as magnetic covers that double as keyboards.
Those keyboards — one a pressure sensitive, 3mm touch surface, the other a traditional, tactile version — were designed by Bathiche and his team.
In fact, the entire tablet was designed in-house by Microsoft’s teams, and if you believe what was said in the presentation Monday, design and functionality in hardware have suddenly become a big deal in Redmond.
That’s a big shift — and an important one. The announcement of the Surface shows that Microsoft is ready to break with its history — a history of hardware partnerships that relied on companies such as Dell, HP or Acer to actually bring its products to market.
That might burn partners in the short term, but it could also give Microsoft something it desperately needs: a clear story.
I know what you’re going to say: Microsoft is just ripping off Apple. The presentation, the hardware and software integration, even the way executives talked about the product on stage. Yes, that’s true — they learned something from Apple. So did Google — that’s why the Galaxy Nexus exists, and it’s why the company will probably announce a Nexus tablet this month.
Microsoft might be stealing a page from Apple’s playbook, but it’s a good page to steal. It also happens to give a narrative to a product that has thus far been something of a mystery: Windows 8.
Since the introduction of the Metro UI and Microsoft’s talk about a “no compromises” operating system, there has been plenty of speculation on exactly what kind of product a Windows 8 PC would be. The combination touch interface and traditional desktop have continuously felt like a jarring mashup of ideas. Despite allusions to hybrid products that function as both tablet and PC, it’s never been clear what Microsoft intended to do with Windows 8.