Microsoft Boxes Apple's Ears With Surface Tablet

You really don't get a sense of just how limited the iPad is until you actually explore the Surface tablet that Microsoft released last week. It is like the designers sat down over beers and argued over every single shortcoming they found in the iPad and then built into Surface just the right features to make the iPad look inadequate.
It is as if they put their decade of frustration over Apple kicking their butts with the iPod, iPhone and iPad into one vengeful response -- and that offering is the Surface tablet. What I think will make this response even more painful is that Apple just launched its iPad mini at a price that's 60 percent higher than the competition, and I doubt that will turn out well. So the new Microsoft tablet could actually significantly outsell the new less-expensive iPad mini in its debut quarter, and Microsoft has never done that to an iProduct.
My product of the week has to be the Microsoft Surface tablet -- an offering that turned out far better than any of us expected.

Designed From the Inside Out

One sentence spoken during the launch of the Surface tablet really got my attention and made it clear that we hadn't been looking at the Surface tablet properly. You see, Apple designs very uniquely in the technology market -- well, in any market other than art, really. It designs from the outside in.
This creates beautiful products but also massive problems, because to fit all of the technology into the tiny case, it often has to make huge tradeoffs -- sacrificing advanced radios, for example, or putting antennas in the wrong place, or creating a frame that won't protect the screen adequately. Thus has resulted in limited ports, lack of memory slots, and what has proven to be a rather fragile product family, given how much money the firms that specialize in fixing iPads seem to make.
By going the more traditional design route, Microsoft has built a tablet that has more ports (USB and HD out), is more balanced, is sturdier, has a memory slot, and has a screen aspect ratio that not only matches media but is more consistent with current-generation laptops.
Yes, something we really didn't notice is that the iPad uses the old near-square laptop screen aspect ratio that has been obsolete on all but the cheapest notebooks for years.
Microsoft was also able to add a fast-charge battery that can charge almost fully in two hours.

Keyboard Cover

This is one of the things that I think drove Bill Gates nuts: Back in 2007, while they both shared the stage, Steve Jobs basically called Bill stupid for suggesting tablets would be the future of computing. Jobs argued that you'd pretty much have to be stupid to think people would give up a keyboard.
So, the iPad doesn't have an integrated keyboard option, but the Surface tablet does. In fact, it looks like Microsoft took the signature magnetic cover that Apple launched with the iPad and made it useful.
The irony doesn't end here, because Tim Cook, Apple's current CEO, has been comparing the Surface tablet-plus-keyboard to the ugly offspring of a refrigerator and toaster. This kind of suggests that he thinks Jobs was stupid, and I think that is why this one option likely put a huge grin on Bill Gates' face.

The Kickstand

Now I don't get why every tablet doesn't have one of these. If you want to share a video, someone has to hold up the damn iPad. If you want to use a wireless keyboard, you have to have a stand -- and often touching the damn iPad will cause it to tip over. We've had kickstands on motorcycles and bicycles for decades, and we've even had them on some smartphones. Why was this so hard to figure out?
Well, this takes us back to design; Apple didn't want to mar the perfect back of its product, even though you really don't look at the back that often.
Yep -- the Surface Tablet has a kickstand.

Cloud Services and Productivity

The only thing that really makes iCloud look good is the horrid MobleMe service that it replaced. Compared to MobleMe, iCloud is brilliant. However, it also showcases that cloud services aren't Apple's forte.
Microsoft has wrapped Surface (and all of the Windows tablets) with a broad set of services -- from Skype to SkyDrive -- that are designed to showcase its cloud competency. Integration with Exchange is superior, but so is integration with Gmail and other third-party mail services that work even when you aren't connected.
The other area that Apple struggles with is productivity. In fact, Office is still the leading productivity app on Macs, but it doesn't run on iPads. Strangely enough, the best productivity pack I've ever tried on an iPad is Office 365, which you can get to through the iPad browser.
Office comes packaged with the Surface tablet.

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