Here comes Microsoft's Surface, a product full of promise that begs to give consumers a big reason to try out Windows 8. We're excited, but equally worried that Apple's alleged September extravaganza is going to sideswipe the Redmond-based company's big tablet contender right off of consumer radars. Should Microsoft be worried?
There's no arguing the Surface looks and sounds great. But right now Microsoft is banking on hype for a machine that a large part of the media hasn't been given the opportunity to play with, even at the company's June unveiling. Without any sort of tangible context for how it measures up to the best out there — aside from specs and a vague price point — Microsoft is asking a lot of the average consumer to take notice, or even stay interested.
Timing is huge in the market today. Irrespective of a device's specs, do you think HTC or Samsung would be crazy enough to launch a smartphone in the vicinity of an iPhone? Nope. The risk is too great, even if Android is overwhelming the worldwide market. That's why HTC and Samsung launched the flagship HTC One X and Galaxy S III smartphones months ahead of the rumored fall launch of the iPhone 5. The iPhone is still one of the most sought after handsets today, and anticipation is said to be so high that recent sales have declined based on iPhone 5 rumors. It always happens.
That brings us to the rumor suggesting Apple is set to unleash hell upon its competitors come September 12. Anything else a month before or after will likely get engulfed in the hype machine. Scratch that: Anything else (that's new) for the rest of the year will probably collect dust on shelves everywhere — like a sad, old, washed up baseball player riding the bench.
We're already so far removed from Microsoft's June Surface announcement that folks not following tech news on a daily basis have probably forgotten about its existence. That's never good for any company or product.
Out of sight equals out of mind in this industry, no matter how you slice it.
What Apple does well, and continues to do well, is its ability to reveal a product and then release it to consumers soon after. The company announced its new iPad on March 7, and released it a little over a week later, on March 16. It builds hype and anticipation, announces an almost immediate release date, and the consumer subsequently follows. If an iPhone 5 and iPad Mini get announced in a little over a month, you can bet the marketing campaign will start flying. That's a lot of eyes and ears learning about what Apple has out right this second, not what Microsoft is releasing in a few months. Plus, the latest rumors suggest an announcement could happen as soon as September 12th with a release set for September 21st.
Apple's model for software is slightly different, sure, but that's precisely why we'll probably be subjected to hearing about iOS 6's features when the iPhone 5 is announced. iOS 6, if you remember, was first discussed months ago during the firm's Worldwide Developers Conference, but we're sure there are additional features the company hasn't yet discussed. On that note, talking about new software immediately brings attention to the products it'll run on — iPhone and iPad. That right there sucks more life away from competitors.
We've already shared our thoughts on what the iPad Mini might mean for the competition. Can Microsoft really expect its Surface to withstand a triple threat onslaught — iPhone 5, new iPad, iPad Mini — during the busy holiday period? Apple has flexed its incredible muscle with a limited amount of phone and tablet options for the past three years. Expecting the Surface to make any significant dent is wishful thinking, especially if the prosposed iPad Mini is set at a bottom dollar price alongside the already hot iPad.
Microsoft's Surface is one of the more exciting pieces of hardware we've seen in a long, long time. Unfortunately, it exists solely in the form of a promise from a company that has struggled to keep up with Apple and Google over the past several years. Worse, Microsoft's decision to only offer the device through its own stores and online channels is wacky. Apple is about to pile on Microsoft's misery even further once the iPhone 5 is revealed (and possibly the iPad Mini). But I hope that's not true.