Microsoft fights through its tablet failures12/3/2014
One of the best qualities of being human is the ability to change one’s mind. Well, after two months of experiences that are simply irrefutable, I must admit that the newest iteration of Microsoft’s Surface tablet is an exceptional mobile device.
One year ago I spent two weeks test-driving the original Surface, an experience that was so dreadful I wrote a column calling it “an overall hot mess.” While that column basically salted the Microsoft earth, I did leave the door open, knowing one of the tenants of tech faith would likely come true: If the first attempt fails, there’s no saying the follow-ups can’t be a success.
The Surface Pro 3 is a success. It is faster, the screen is leaps and bounds better, and the operating system is much more intuitive. It is not perfect, but after righting so many wrongs, I wouldn’t it put it out of the realm of possibility.
The fact is, with the possible exception of the original iPod, iPhone and iPad, close to no tech debuts go smoothly. Microsoft’s iPod alternative, the Zune, was atrocious. The first line of Android phones was slow and buggy. Even the most recent iterations of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, have debuted to serious flaws. iOS 8 was so poorly tested that it actually killed the ability for many iPhones to make calls. That is the singular feature a phone must have — and Apple’s software update killed it.
It seems so simple to the targeted user of these tech innovations: Why release something to the market that isn’t perfect? Well, the first reason is hubris. While the Surface is starting to show signs of life beyond its initial failure, the Zune never improved beyond pathetic iPod copycat. Microsoft rushed the Zune to market because in the early 2000s they were the unbeatable tech juggernaut, and Apple was the fledgling tech firm. Microsoft’s confidence, then bordering on narcissism, ultimately led to millions of crappy mp3 players failing to be sold.
The second biggest reason for bad tech coming to market is fear. Apple may state otherwise, but they are afraid of Android and Microsoft. iOS updates were rushed partly because nearly all of the best Android and Windows phones are better than the iPhone. No company or gadget stays on top forever, and with new Androids coming out every month, it was only a matter of time before the iPhone slipped from the mountaintop. So instead of testing for months and months, iOS was released far less than perfect. That is fear, pure and simple.
Finally, the third biggest reason for bad tech is foresight. When Google first unveiled Android, it knew it wasn’t perfect, but it ultimately didn’t matter because, in time, it might be. Nearly all of Google’s products are released undercooked with the understanding that sometimes it’s better to be in the market early than enter late and miss the window. Google’s early Android failures are better than Blackberry and Nokia’s complete no-shows.
Initially, the Surface’s debut might have been out of fear. Personal computer sales are low, and tablets are the new thing. But with the Surface 3 turnaround, at least Microsoft has righted the ship and has a future in the tablet market. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.