After Microsoft’s announcement, I can envision a situation where I’m not traveling with two devices, or sitting on my couch with two devices, or running to grab my laptop from my office upstairs. The Surface makes sense, and it drives home Microsoft’s previously vague intentions with Windows 8.
The company doesn’t suddenly have a hit on its hands. This isn’t a strong tree — it’s more like a seedling that will need a ton of water and direct sunlight.
I’ve been stewing on it, and I think there are three things that have to happen for the Surface to really be a viable alternative to the iPad (or a standard laptop, for that matter).
The first is that Microsoft needs to evangelize this product to developers and persuade them that there’s an opportunity to make money on its platform. There is simply no way to get new users to buy without a stacked app catalogue, and Microsoft has a huge uphill battle to fight against two entrenched players.
Second, the price has to be right. If the lower-end Surface costs more than $500, it will be a really difficult sell for Microsoft. Price really does matter in a world where an iPad 2 is $399 and the Kindle Fire just half that.
Finally, Microsoft needs to deliver on its hardware promises. It’s easy to say you made an awesome product, but it’s a lot harder to actually make that product. Every company says they make great stuff, but few actually do.
And in case you’re keeping count, Microsoft has never made a tablet before. With guys such as Bathiche leading the charge, I believe the company is capable of great things, but it has to execute.
Remember, this is the company that produced the failed Kin line of phones and killed off another attempt at a tablet, the promising Courier project. Hardware is not simple for any company, and making the Surface truly great will not be a cakewalk.
One thing seems certain. With the Surface, Microsoft just started writing its next chapter. And for the first time in a while, I’m excited to see where the story goes.
Joshua Topolsky is the founding editor in chief of the Verge (theverge.com), a technology news Web site. For previous columns, go to postbusiness.com.