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Tech Talk

Microsoft big loser of tablet tech

9/4/2013

Last week Steve Ballmer surprised the tech world by announcing that in 12 months he will be stepping down as CEO of Microsoft. According to the rumor mill, Ballmer is not so much retiring as being gracefully shown the door due to the failure of Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets. Having personally spent a week with a Surface RT, I wholeheartedly agree that someone needed to lose his or her job for this piece of garbage.

Since taking over for Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 2000, Ballmer’s CEO tenure has seen Microsoft miss the boat on MP3 players, smartphones, Internet search and now tablets. Besides being four years late to the tablet market, the entry level “Surface RT” falls short on virtually every count to the gold-standard iPad.

As far as specifications go, the Surface loses on camera quality, screen resolution and third-party application availability with slow, frustrating operating systems. When considering design, the Surface loses due to its sharp edges, slightly heavier weight and its elongated width, which makes portrait use awkward.

For a company that famously lost an antitrust case for monopolizing the software industry, its tablets feel like a complete software rush job. The system routinely freezes, the onscreen keyboard occasionally fails to launch, and, on one occassion, the screen turned fuzzy until a new software update was installed.

It’s sad, but two of the only real advantages to Microsoft’s tablet is it comes equipped with Microsoft Office and its solitaire collection everyone got addicted to decades ago. Finally, while the Surface is an overall hot mess, its signature kickstand is such a fantastic idea it should be immediately co-opted by all other tablet manufacturers.

Is Ballmer to blame for the Surface? Of course not, but with only two million Surfaces sold in its 10 months on the market compared to iPad’s nearly 60 million in the same window, something serious needed to be done. Still, one of the tried and true idioms of technology is that the second version of most computing platforms is generally a winner. So hopefully Surface 2 will erase the sins of the debut tablet. It’s just too bad for Ballmer that he won’t be around to see it. CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @ResponsiblyWild.                 

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