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Why I love Microsoft’s vapourware tablet

Probe beneath the Surface

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Surface tension

"Surface has not just one but two cameras." Yes, and it also has not just one but two stereo speakers, not just 76 but 77 keys on the keyboard, and the rectangular unit has not just one but four edges. It also has none of these things because it doesn't bloody exist yet.

I was also evilly amused watching Microsoft's Windows president, Steve Sinofsky, deal with a frozen manufacturing mock-up of his non-existent tablet live on stage at the beginning of his presentation:


'Here's one I prepared earlier...'

These things happen, of course, but often they happen simply because nature and common sense feel the need to make their presence known amid the illusory world of men. At IBM's London launch of OS/2 2.0 in 1992, the demonstrator famously announced that the "revolutionary" new operating system was completely and utterly crash-proof... at which precise moment, her demonstration computer completely and utterly crashed. As indeed OS/2 did from time to time on test machines back at the office.

Contrary to your expectations, though, I warm to the promise of Microsoft Surface. This could be the tablet computer I've always wanted. To be honest, I pined for a Tablet PC about ten years ago and sang their praises in a column I wrote for an IT weekly magazine at the time.

Looking back, I should have guessed Tablet PC was not going to last. The computers were a bit ugly and a bit expensive, and the range of Tablet PC-enhanced applications was a bit crap. These were the reasons I never bought one. Indeed, these were the very same reasons why no one else bought one.

Fujitsu Tablet PC

Fujitsu's Stylistic: how a tablet should be... What, a bloody desktop?

So how does the Surface tablet compare? It doesn't look ugly but I suspect it's going to be nut-crunchingly expensive: "About the same as an ultrabook," means a starting price of £1000. Hmm, should I buy a diddy Windows 8-only tablet that has a built-in stilt or buy a MacBook Air with proper memory spec, full-size fuck-off keyboard and trackpad and that will run just about any operating system I want?

But most of all, please someone tell me they are optimising their Windows 8 applications for Surface. The whole conversation about Microsoft's ability to sell hardware is entirely irrelevant. As Apple found with iOS, and I know Microsoft's Steve Ballmer will back me up on this, it's all about the developers. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He feels he may be the only person in the world who harks back to the Microsoft Mouse with fond memories and believes that Microsoft was always a much better hardware manufacturer than software developer.

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