With all the "buzz" around Microsoft's Surface tablet, I keep hearing about how it will take over the market from Apple's iPad. I just have a few things to remind people of. First, remember the Zune? Next, Microsoft will run the tablet with Windows 8 and its RT variant (which haven't been released) which is based on their mobile phone interface. How well have Microsoft mobile phones been in the marketplace? And finally, this isn't the first Microsoft tablet computer. Yeah, you probably never heard of that one either. Their most successful hardware/software integration project, the XBox, wasn't doing that well (financially) until they released Kinect. As I've read it, the people responsible for that haven't been included in the Surface.
That's not to say Microsoft isn't doing some cool things with the surface. The integrated keyboard looks quite nice (however, I'm not convinced it'll be a success, but people's tastes in keyboards is changing). But with that, I'm not sure what the difference would be between the tablet and a netbook. The option of greater memory is a nice differentiator, but on a tablet, not so much. Again, a netbook is cheaper and just as powerful. USB Ports are nice, but you actually can connect a USB to the iPad, it's just nobody is making devices for it, because why do it? This question goes to the heart of what a tablet computer is and what people are using it for.
Microsoft is lusting after a market they have no stake in at the moment. Unfortunately what they're not seeing through the dollar signs is that this isn't their market. It's not their strength. Because their customer base looks at those dollar signs as well, but mostly as something to stay away from.
This doesn't mean I don't see a device that could take Apple on in this market. I've complained about how using the iPad is a little bit of a pain for those of us who have complicated and personalized filing systems. The paradigm of not having a hard drive is something I'm still struggling with. But I don't think the Surface will actually address these points.
So what I see is an initial flurry of people buying the Microsoft tablet just because it is a Microsoft tablet. If they don't integrate this into their business ecosphere, it'll die quickly (like before a second Christmas). If they're able to tie it into their server technology, fully functional (encrypted) email, access to server drives, etc, it will be a moderate success. If any of those are missing, their major customers, corporate IT departments, won't adopt it. If enterprise can't find a way to tie it quickly and easily into their managements' critical needs, they won't buy more than a test unit or two, or a geegaw for some executive. And if they won't buy them, it won't be around for long.
But, hey, I could be wrong about it all. It's been known to happen once or twice.