The Empire Finally Strikes Back

Maybe this isn’t an iPhone-sized line, but the product they’re seeking costs twice as much. The Microsoft Surface Pro, running full-on Windows 8, starts at $999, and the one you want may easily come to $1200.
 
I call that impressive. Look, I realize Microsoft Stores aren’t common. I know the inventories at Best Buy and other locations may have been skimpy. And I suspect Microsoft purposely kept their inventories lean, fearing a flop, haunted by heaps of unwanted Surface RTs.
 
Nevertheless, in the middle of launch day, Microsoft proclaimed a sellout for the 128 GB Pro – and by 5:30pm EST, they announced that 64GB models were gone online. [SUBSEQUENT NOTE: I’ve heard this disputed, but that’s what Microsoft said.]
 
A business exec in my Twitter feed may have spoken for many who didn’t get one. “MS blew it today” he posted, “turning away clients w/ $ in hand.” All the same, when I asked him if he still intended to buy, he responded yes. In fact, he intends to order a major hardware refresh for his company.
 
Hear that, Apple? In your eagerness to keep iPads and Macs distinct – iPads for touch, Macs for power-users – you may have lost a big piece of the business pie. WHY? Well, I asked the same man why he wanted the Surface Pro:
 
And his brief tweet neatly describes where the Surface Pro wins big.
 
* One device. This is Apple’s soft underbelly. I own both a MacBook Pro and an iPad. WHY? Because Apple doesn’t make anything that does everything, that’s why. I know their argument, but it doesn’t stop me from shaking my head every time I pack an iPad on top of my MacBook Pro with Retina. With a Surface Pro, I could have my touch, a movie screen, a reader, and a VERY serious computer that competes very well with the MacBook Air. Granted, it doesn’t match the speed of my 15” MacBook Pro. Yet.
 
* Pen actually works. This gets my vote for best-kept secret about the Surface Pro. It’s a jaw dropper. It doesn’t just “allow stylus input.” IT LITERALLY READS YOUR HANDWRITING. I tried out a Windows 8 Samsung Ativ with a similar feature and was blown away. I dashed off my pathetic scrawl across the screen – instantly, it turned into text. It actually works, and much, much better than any iPad or Android app. You can write and draw better than on paper. It does for writing what Kindle did for reading. This feature is revolutionary and appallingly under-promoted. You’re used to hearing this about Apple, but on properly equipped Windows 8 devices, writing works. And I adore it. Unless Apple wakes up very soon, I’m going to buy a Windows 8 device this year for this feature alone.
 
* Software loads fast. iPad, MacBook Air and Ultrabook users take this for granted, but it’s important. If you don’t have an SSD, you’re deprived. Combine one with an Intel core i5 processor and there’s no going back.
 
* Design. It’s gorgeous. It feels great. Apple territory.
 
Maybe by now you’re thinking “this sounds better than a MacBook Air”…
 
But you’re not going to give up your sweet little iPad Mini for a bigger, heavier Surface…
 
So I’m thinking, finally Microsoft has the Windows 8 hit that it sought for so long. But it’s not what they dreamed. Not an iPad killer. Instead it’s a PC Killer. And perhaps not quite yet not a MacBook Air killer, but maybe a make-you-think-twice device.
 
So. A bit of a bitter victory. Microsoft Surface is here to stay, but not-quite-good-enough partners like Acer may fall by the Windows 8 wayside.
 
Digesting one day’s Twitter feed, my gut informs me strongly that Windows 8 has scored a big win in the business market, but not with iPad-toting consumers.
 

Not yet. Early days.

 
Will the Surface Pro change the tech landscape? No, but it’s still day one. Yes, MacBook Air may go Retina this year, but I’ll bet you lunch it won’t go touch. And I’ll wager dinner that Surface Pro will be back in the fall with 10-hour-battery-life, adjustable kickstand, thinner body and other improvements to make me run off to my near-enough Microsoft Store – and buy.

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