While everyone in the tablet world is furiously trying to create something, anything, that will compete with Apple’s wildly successful and truly dominant iPad tablet, Microsoft has taken another approach, building a tablet that does all the things a tablet should do, which means doing many things the iPad simply can’t do, at least according to Bill Gates.
Although I was only able to catch a few brief snippets of Gates’ appearance on Charlie Rose’s PBS show earlier this week, being an age old technology geek I was certainly curious about what he had to say regarding the current state of the technology market and where he saw Microsoft’s place in it.
As expected, parts of the conversation were dominated by the latest technology craze, tablets, specifically Microsoft’s new Surface tablet and what it will bring to the market. While Gates has never been known to have the same bravado that his late Apple counterpart Steve Jobs often brought to interviews, the Microsoft co-founder admitted that he thought the Surface tablet will introduce a new form factor to the tablet world; one Apple will soon have to follow.
As technology has developed over the last several decades I’ve found myself more and more disinterested in picking sides in the great Microsoft vs. Apple debate. So let me say at the outset that while I’m certainly interested in what tablet form factor will dominant in the next few years, I happen to use technology from both companies, and I’m happy with it.
That said, it’s clear that Microsoft hasn’t given up on competing with its once stalwart foe in the computing world, with Gates stating that the tablet market really doesn’t know what it wants yet, with Apple finding success by branding its tablet in a way that speaks to the heart, instead of the mind. It’s this appeal to emotion, in my mind, that has made it easier for iPad users to compromise, giving up much of what they needed in a tablet to get their hands on the iPad’s indefinable je ne sais quoi.
But with the Surface, Gates explained, users can get everything they need in a tablet. “You don’t have to make a compromise,” he said. “You can have everything you like about a tablet and everything you like about a PC all in one device. And so that should change the way people look at things.”
Given the deep Windows integration sported by Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, Gates sees the new device as a perfect blend between PC and tablet, a platform that will allow users to be creative and productive in ways the iPad simply can’t, all the while giving the legions of Windows users a piece of technology that’s comfortable and familiar.
But will the Surface introduce a radical paradigm shift in the tablet sphere, one that Apple will be forced to follow? At first blush I’d have to say ‘no,’ simply given the fact that currently success in the tablet market requires a certain pizzazz and panache, the willingness to take chances and create something that speaks to the entirety of one’s digital existence, intangible features that, to put it bluntly, I’ve never associated with the name Microsoft.