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A Windows Surprise Surfaces in Los Angeles

June 18, 2012

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer, reveals Surface, the new family of tablet/convertible PCs for Windows, at an event in Los Angeles, California.

There are a lot of interesting things about today’s Microsoft Surface Tablet news, not least of which is the way in which it was delivered. There’s a pattern to major Microsoft announcements and this didn’t follow the usual playbook. Journalists were told late last week that there would be major Microsoft news in Los Angeles today and the exact venue was not revealed until hours before the event. This meant that many had to fly in (from the Bay Area and New York) on a wing and a prayer. It takes guts to pull a stunt like this.

For those that missed the news, Microsoft announced that they will be making an ultra-book-sized (thin) Windows 8 tablet – dubbed “Surface” – with a touch screen and integrated keyboard. Think an iPad with the additional functionality of your desktop Windows PC. Think no compromises: both a sexy new toy and a kick-ass productivity machine.

Over the weekend the conjecture and rumors were flying. With hype like this, there was a real potential for an immediate backlash if the news was not significant enough. The technology press is a jaded and easily disgruntled lot. Instead journalists seemed genuinely impressed during the presentation – I especially enjoyed the Princess Bride “I-know-something-you-don’t-know moment” when the integrated keyboard was revealed. The immediate rush of news that I saw after the press event was overwhelmingly positive.

For those that missed the significance of this news, for the first time Microsoft will be making its own PCs. I’ll have more to say about this in the future as there are numerous repercussions, but for now I’m merely marveling at the “reveal.” First, that they were able to more or less keep this news a surprise. This tells me that very few press were pre-briefed. This also explains the Monday afternoon event (normally Mondays are reserved for pre-briefing a Tuesday announcement). The Los Angeles location (which Microsoft called, Hollywood) might be seen as a bit of misdirection because New York would be the expected venue for such consumer news. The minimum of news leaks also tells me that only the top brass at the PC manufacturers were given a heads up, as the OEMs leak like sieves, especially news like this which they certainly viewed with some trepidation. Also clever was the use of the existing “Microsoft Surface” name and trademark. I (alas, but few others) know “Surface” as the large-scale table-top computer technology introduced by Microsoft in 2007. Repurposing the name for today’s announcement provided a bit of ambiguity and air cover in the run-up to the announcement.

The backlash is sure to come as more press have more time to use the devices and think things over. For me, this resolves some of the cognitive dissonance presented by key Windows 8 features. So for now let’s let Microsoft bask in the afterglow of a press event well done. Well played, Microsoft, well played…

Surface’s many Touch Cover options.

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  1. Blurred Lines – The Surface 2 Announce | marcommman

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