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An Alternate Universe (Microsoft Surface) (marco.org)
242 points by tnorthcutt on Oct 27, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 240 comments

Odd, I played with the Surface yesterday and the device I used was much different than the one described here. I have an iPad (and love it in many ways), however found the Surface fairly refreshing in several ways. For one:

I find that I can't really hold the iPad with one hand, partially because the shape and weight distribution, partially because it feels so incredibly fragile. I found the Surface to be shaped comfortably, even for one hand, and thought it felt much more durable than the iPad (this article states it doesn't feel light like the iPhone 5, however even though it's comparable in weight to the iPad 3, my first thought was that it feels kind of like the lightness and increased sense of durability of the iPhone 5).

>> I couldn’t type on the Touch Cover significantly faster than with the on-screen keyboard.

Seriously? I type on the iPad a lot and resort to "pecking" most of the time, and I have fairly average sized hands. I instantly was able to use the touch cover like a normal keyboard. I made a few mistakes, but could easily see myself typing nearly as fast as a normal keyboard with a little practice. I have no such feeling with the iPad.

>> Apple’s products say, “You can’t do that because we think it would suck.” Microsoft’s products say, “We’ll let you try to do anything on anything if you really want to, even if it sucks.”

Wow, what a sad sounding world for people who like Apple products.

I'm not going to buy a Surface yet, but I'm seriously tempted.

Haven't tried the Surface yet but something I haven't seen anyone mention is that when you are typing on the Touch Cover, your hands are not hiding the screen. That seems like a big plus to me.

Kickstarter idea: pitch a "Touch Cover" product for the iPad (could be done using the USB port I believe). PS: lawyer up!

I thought the author's comment about being able to type as fast on the on-screen keyboard as the type cover was totally missing the point. The on-screen keyboard takes up half the screen. Plus, with the type cover, you can hold the screen at a good viewing angle while typing on a flat surface.

I don't know if a reinvention there is needed. I have an iPhone and a 15" MBP but probably the most useful productivity improver I have is an almost weightless Bluetooth clicket keyboard that I carry around. If I need to type something like a document on the go, it often turns out that it's much easier to simply put the keyboard on my knee, put the iPhone in landscape on a surface in front on a foldable bit of home made plinth, and rap away at the keys at four times the rate I could without one.

Of course iPad users look at me oddly and go back to touching like buttons and watching videos.

No need for Kickstarter: Google is your friend! Try "ipad keyboard case" or "ipad keyboard cover".

but it's so thick(?)

I get the impression that his whole experience of the Surface was tainted by Microsoft's ham-fisted attempts at retail culture. The Surface sounds like a cool product with a lot of potential but from everything I've heard about Microsoftle Stores I can't blame him for not being in the mood. As he described it they're overflowing with weird forced enthusiasm... like the ugly girl at the party who's having SO MUCH FUN and and wants to talk to everyone about how fun this party is!

>Seriously? I type on the iPad a lot and resort to "pecking" most of the time, and I have fairly average sized hands. I instantly was able to use the touch cover like a normal keyboard. I made a few mistakes, but could easily see myself typing nearly as fast as a normal keyboard with a little practice. I have no such feeling with the iPad.

Did you have the same problem Marco mentioned, that he could not rest his fingers on the keyboard without accidentally typing? That would explain your faster typing speed vs his.

> Microsoft’sproducts say, “We’ll letyou tryto do anything on anything ifyou reallywant to, even if it sucks.”

In the specific case of web browsers, they will allow you to build one as long as it sucks.

What makes the iPad feel fragile?

It's a shame to see Marco panning the Surface so thoroughly. It's apples and oranges. On the one hand, comparing brand new hardware (one day old) with 4th generation hardware and on the other hand comparing brand new software (again, one day old) with version 6 software.

Despite the criticisms of some of the execution here and there (e.g., the pointless animations), it's clear if you've done any reading that a tremendous amount of research and UX work went into this--but it's a v1 product and many of the apps are written by groups other than MS.

I got a chance to use the Surface today and the thing that I came away with was that this could be a person's only computer. As an example, you can browse the file system, run desktop apps, and copy files to external storage. I can't say that about an iPad. Everyone I know who owns an iPad (myself included) also has a second computer somewhere--often in the same bag.

The other thing I came away with was that Microsoft is open and Apple is closed. Why can't I plug a microSD card into any Apple product? Why can't I plug in a USB device? You can plug your camera into the Surface (it's a host) and download pictures to your local machine. MS has several capacities and price points, just like Apple, but they're not afraid to let you use external storage.

I believe in a future with open computing and, firmware lock downs notwithstanding, MS is far more open than Apple.

It is not apples and oranges. People making a utility-based purchasing decision can only compare the 1st generation Surface to the 4th generation iPad.

The amount of R&D has no relevance to a consumer. The relevant thing is how much value the device provides.

I agree that the expectation and advantage is to have your tablet serve as your one and only computer. But this will never be actually true since most people will actually have to carry around a phone (or phablet). The portability and availability of a phone will beat out that of a tablet. Try jogging with a tablet. What a tablet currently buys you is a larger screen and a keyboard that you can type on for awhile.

A truer statement may be that this tablet's aim is to take on additional functionality found in desktops and laptops and not found in other tablets. In Microsoft's mind, that functionality is Office and access the file system.

You can plug in microSD and USD into an iPad. You need the accessories. Agree that they don't let you use external storage.

If you want open computing, you shouldn't be picking Microsoft, nor Apple, nor Google. Are you saying that you want to depend on an entity whose sole purpose is to make money to supply you with open source code in the long run? How about Oracle with Java? Or Compuserve with gif? Corporations don't even trust other corporations with key technologies without making them open source or FRAND. If you truly want open source, you should be branching Android and replacing or removing Google services with open source alternatives.

Well, you disagree with Microsoft. As an exec said here (sorry to link to BGR) http://bgr.com/2012/10/25/microsoft-executive-mundie-intervi... MS lead the way with tablets and touch based systems. If they were first, the surface isn't version 1.

That's quibbling. Irrespective of how you label the devices, a consumer making a decision compares the two devices at hand.

MS never built their own computers, so that's a first there. Also while they tried to market Tablet PCs a decade ago it was always trying to make normal Windows work with a pen (although their handwriting recognition is the best I've ever used). So Metro-or-whatever-it's-called-now is a radical departure from that as well.

I would indeed label the Surface as a Version 1, both in terms of hardware and software.

Check out this awesome article on tablets from Tadhg Kelly: http://m.techcrunch.com/2012/10/27/tablet-first-mobile-secon...

Makes the case that tablets can provide different value from phones.

> I got a chance to use the Surface today and the thing that I came away with was that this could be a person's only computer. As an example, you can browse the file system, run desktop apps, and copy files to external storage.

That's kiiiinda cool. Marco said that the Surface felt like a computer (is that a bad thing), and it sounded pretty good to me. I use an iPhone now and its artificial limitations are kind of ridiculous.

If/when I snag a tablet, I'll be hard at work making it work like a computer - just a hand-held one.

What is the deal with people running around decrying the fact that people compare the surface and the iPad. Of course you can compare them. Microsoft might not want you to, but they will be compared. Not many people are going to get both. They are both tablets.

And just like every other consumer, you need to compare the latest iPad with the latest surface. Not many people care about your excuses.

Why are there so many Microsoft apologists out this week?

Yes, there are advantages to the Surface, this should have been the focus of your reply.

I think it's fair to point out that the Surface and Windows 8 are both v1, and that Microsoft will clearly work on improving them rapidly. They have a lot of rough spots now but the situation could be very different in two or three years. This doesn't mean that you should ignore either product's current problems of course. The iPhone wasn't perfect when it came out either.

>As an example, you can browse the file system,

Yes, unlike the iPad you can access the filesystem OOTB.

>run desktop apps,

No, you can't. Office and (I think) Notepad and Paint are the only desktop apps you can run on the Surface with Windows RT.

>The other thing I came away with was that Microsoft is open and Apple is closed. Why can't I plug a microSD card into any Apple product? Why can't I plug in a USB device? You can plug your camera into the Surface (it's a host) and download pictures to your local machine.

You can't use an SD card as additional storage, but you can import pictures from a camera over USB or directly from an SD card, using the $30 camera connection kit. The USB port on the camera connection kit can be used for other purposes as well, for example MIDI keyboards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Pwa3SbFFE

Not the same as having a USB port included, but the iPad is more capable than you make it out to be.

A few people said it already, but if you get into a store which is not smack in the middle of a tech startup area of a city (where the rest of the world lives), you'll see people browsing tablets (and laptops) in a very similar way; they walk and try Androids and iPads (and Surface?) in one go. They want a tablet as they have some purpose for it or they don't need a desktop of laptop (the latter becoming more and more relevant every day; I see a lot of non tech people pick up iPads or the more expensive Androids instead of laptops). If they had a brand in mind they most likely will buy that, but, as I frequent large stores in different countries, I see people (young and old) just touching 5-6 of them before buying. I really don't think anyone gives a crap about 1st/2nd/whatever generation or whatever software. They'll buy what they like then and there. So MS SHOULD be on par with the latest iPad, hardware and software OR have prices comparable with discounter Androids. I see it as a hard sale for non techies otherwise. They compare their 'feeling' when touching it, browsing apps, browsing the web, playing a game and watching video. And then they compare price. So I agree apples and oranges on a tech point of view, but business wise who cares; it's a bad comparison only on price (compared to cheap Android pads), on features no-one cares; you pick what's better for that price.

Wait, so Apple invented the idea of a store with flat tables and sales staff with blue shirts? First of all, practically every high end women's shoe or bag store had that "Art Gallery" presentation style: hardwood floors, uncluttered and spacious, simply flat tables or shelves with few products. Although the sales people are usually dressed very sharp.

But Apple did not invent this style of presenting consumer electronics. Sometimes I feel like Marco, MG, and Gruber were born 5 years ago. Am I the only one who bought nice, industrial designed stuff from stores like Bang and Olufsen? The Beocom 2 came out in 2002 and some of the Bang and Olufsen stores had flat tables like that. And if you visited some of the boutique stores in Italy or Japan even 10 years ago you would find some with this layout.

And didn't BestBuy invent the blue-shirt guy? I'm kind of bored of the continued notion that Apple was the first consumer electronics company to obsess over industrial design, build quality, or retail presentation.

There's a difference between tastefully selecting reference points from a wide range of inspiration sources, and crudely imitating a direct comptetitor who has heretofore been wiping the floor with you. The former is what Apple did when creating the Apple Store, and what every other successful designer does when creating something original. The latter is what wannabes do when they begin to realise how uncool they are.

Successfully repurposing ideas into fresh contexts is good work. This is not what Microsoft has done. Not by a long shot.

As to the Bang and Olufson argument, well, B&O sell speakers and is a nice company, but Apple sells the future of humanity and is the largest company in the world. It's a question of vision and impact, not who came up with hardwood floors first.

Come to think of it, the whole who-thought-of-it-first is a real red herring when thinking about why Apple/Apple Stores are significant.

So what?

Apparently from the various posts relating to discussions about Apple some people take the idea of others emulating Apple as a criminal offense, a type of offense in which for them is valid to point the fingers in the face of such companies and repeated yelling: "loser loser."

About your two last paragraphs I dislike this wording but it shows every mark of the fanboy speak, when given the facts that someone made some elements that Apple uses today just say how Apple is significant compared to them, it's the reverse of the above pattern. This is increasingly making me sick.

If the only thing MS can do is play catch up with Apple and even copy their store designs than they're truly losers.

Writing this from a Windows PC.

Apple aren't great because they invent everything from scratch. They're great because they are able to consistently identify the best ideas and combine them into something amazing.

Microsoft, on the other hand, seem to take a bunch of concepts at face value and mash them together without totally understanding them. Or perhaps in a company so large and distributed it's more a case of great ideas becoming corrupted over time. I don't know.

Look at Marco's photos of the Microsoft store. On the surface it looks like they did a good job. Look a little closer and you quickly see dumb decisions. For example, the "Windows 8" lettering on the floor they need a staff member to warn people not to step over. It's these mis-steps that undermine Microsoft and make them look like they're simply ripping off Apple Stores (and tablets) without really understanding what makes them awesome.

That's an important point. When Samsung or Microsoft take hints from what Apple do, many decry this as though Apple were never themselves inspired, and that's misinformed.

(others) -> Bang Olufsen, fashion boutiques -> Apple Stores -> Microsoft Stores -> (future)

This chain of inspiration is precisely what makes intellectual property very vague to reason about.

Meanwhile, it's probably also misinformed to say Microsoft or Samsung were not inspired by Apple. I don't think Microsoft were primarily influenced by Bang Olufsen stores. I don't think this is the direction they would have taken without Apple doing it before them.

I don't know if Macro is not seeing the picture clearly or if he's just miscommunicating. If he's saying that Apple was the original source of this store layout, that's silly. If he's trying to point out that Microsoft's decisions were largely a reaction to Apple's, he's not wrong.

You don't even have to go to the B&O stores, you can hit much closer to home with the computer set and Sony stores.

Marco Arment enters a Microsoft store beady-eyed, looking for things to nitpick, sneering at everything, seeing the negative side of everything. Whodathunkit.

The article by this fully-grown adult is summed up as he bitches about how "he isn't told how to exit other stores." What a clown.


this is such a biased article with strawman arguments ("can you replace the sound card on the surface?") and silly comparisons(the author actually writes he could buy 2 ipad minis for 1 surface).

the criticisms about the store experience and salesmen notwithstanding, this is apple fanboism at its best.

It's far better to keep an open mind and experience new ways of interaction than to deride/scoff at alternative UI and UX.

I switch between Android, Windows, and Mac OSX; it's far more interesting to enjoy more platforms than forgo trying new experiences.

I came here to post this. This article is so grossly biased by someone who made up their mind a long time ago. The writing is so poor and clearly attacks the silliest stuff that is unrelated to the product itself. This person is clearly jealous? of microsoft copying the apple store approach. It's such a weird article to make it to the top of hacker news. I guess that's a late Friday night for you.

Biased? It's written by Marco Arment, well known author of Instapaper and now "The Magazine" - recent speaker at Cingleton. Of course he's biased. It's like complaining that Anne Coultier is being conservative.

But, I disagree with you on the writing - he clearly put a lot of work into that essay, and it's less egregious than what I would expect from the other pundits.

The sound card comment was because the salesman was suggesting one advantage being a "PC Guy" was that he could upgrade his sound card. My response, btw, would have been identical to Marco's here.

Arguing quick examples and metaphors has never been useful to anyone except the arguer's ego. The salesdude actually tried to address Marco's underlying question (in what ways can you expand this thing?), even though it was clear Marco was there just for trolling. Surface love or hate nonwithstanding, this is an embarrassing post from start to finish.

It was important for the overall motif he repeated throughout the piece that the salespeople seemed to be forcing the issue too much and weren't personally invested. (How could they be? The store has been open for less than a month.)

On the subject of trolling, isn't the very store he went into some kind of meta-troll. Built to be encountered before the Apple store is reached, copying layout and staffing concepts, trying to divert people from buying iPads, coyly calling the competition (iPad) a tablet, rather than name it. I think that there is a reasonable augment to be made that Microsoft is trolling Apple. The smart cover keyboard though, that's a definite win however I look at it.

> coyly calling the competition (iPad) a tablet, rather than name it

Kind of like putting a picture of a Nexus 7 on the screen and calling it "a competitor's tablet"? This isn't trolling, it's the way advertising has worked throughout the history of people trying to get other people to buy stuff.

Please, they're not trolling anyone, they're just embarassing themselves. Even if they can sell a bundle of Surfaces it's not worth it.

Marco was asking a Microsoft store employee if he applied to Apple store first. In what world...? It's hard to compete with that level of personal investment.

I presume he did that so that if he got an affirmative answer he could've declared that Microsoft was hiring Apple Store rejects.

Actually with all the USB support the Surface has, you probably can change the sound "card".


Took me 15 seconds to find multiple USB sounds cards on the Interweb as well.

agreed, Toronto's largest mall (Eaton C) featured the Surface today. It was packed. Everybody was exited and the product looked great.

yes, the farther and farther you travel from silicon valley, microsoft products look more and more appealing. :)

I was at Bellevue mall this evening, and the Microsoft store was packed solid with a long line outside. The nearby Apple store was empty.

Interestingly, all the laptops in the MS store had a touchscreen. The Apple laptops did not. I think MS has changed the game here, with my playing around with the MS store laptops I found the touchscreen interface to be a welcome addition (not a replacement, the touchpad mouse works the same as always).

Um, Bellevue, as in Bellevue, Washington? Bellevue, as in just over three miles away from Microsoft HQ as the crow flies? A mall in Bellevue has people flocking to the Microsoft Store and eschewing the Apple Store? Huh!

The apple store in that mall does just fine. It recently moved into a spot with double the floor space.

I'm sure it's considered a flagship Microsoft store, but when I was computer shoppin last year the sales staff did not unde rstand the difference between "small form factor to watch tv and DVDs" and "tablet". Even when I said, "no, like a Mac mini".

I have a laptop, desktop, tablet and phone. Honestly a mouse or track pad is easier to with a desktop or laptop. Especially for desktops which are having bigger and more screens, using the hand to reach the screen is tougher and tiring. btw, with touch you can have only one click. the mouse can have two or three clicks. Anyway, microsoft mouse is the best out there, it is simple, it works on all surfaces, imho it is better than the apple mouse. Why would microsoft want to kill the best product they ever invented, the microsoft mouse?

Followup: I went back and bought the ASUS X202E laptop with the touchscreen. It's $499 at the Microsoft store, and $599 elsewhere. So far, it seems nice.

    >all the laptops in the MS store had a touchscreen. The Apple laptops did not.
Because Apple doesn't want it's users to get gorilla arms.

> strawman arguments

This is a blog post, not a research paper. That's not a strawman argument, it's a joke.

Have you tried a Microsoft Surface? I think he can scoff at the UI since he tried it.

Yes, I'm typing on one right now =)

It certainly has some flaws as a first generation product, but on the whole it's a breath of fresh air in the tablet space.

If you don't mind saying - in what way do you find it a breath of fresh air? I ask because I am very much a Linux guy, not a Microsoft and definitely not an Apple guy - but my iPad has completely revolutionized the way I use computers. I guess the main draw is filesystem access, right?

I'm more interested in knowing how the iPad revolutionized the way you use computers. I find it more hassle to keep mine charged then find a use for it besides reading news sites on the toiler.

I had this experience of "revolution" before the iPad came out, when I bought my second-hand tc1100 stylus tablet PC. Pretty much, the use cases for the iPad are the same as the old tc1100. The only differences are much better battery life on the iPad and no need for a stylus and to pay attention to which GUI item has focus.

Tablets do change how you use computing, simply because they are more mobile than the PC. Instead of a stationary tool, you now have a portable version.

I had a similar experience switching to a macbook air. It really does make a difference when you can walk around holding your laptop easily in one hand. It's a 13incher so I don't hold it for prolonged periods but I do find I move it around a lot more during skype conversations and I use it for things like radio when I'm cooking in the kitchen.

I'm surprised you use the battery up fast. I find charging mine annoying too - mainly because I so rarely have to do it that I don't have a set pace to do it (damn, I have to unplug the phone, wonder there I put the other charger). I seems to last an age on one charge. Its used pretty much 100% for reading and browsing.

The battery life is very good. It is just the lack of use and I forget about it. There is nothing technically wrong with it but I seem to struggle in finding a use for it to be honest. I just prefer being at a desk on my PC with a big screen.

Well, I'm happy to respond, I guess.

A few years ago, I was given an iPad 1 by the company I work for as a x-mas bonus. It took me a little while, but over time I've found it taking up so very many functions in my life, and doing so with more ease than I thought possible.

To start with, I use a stylus (a Pogo Sketch Pro) constantly with my iPad. I journal daily - I now have about 300 pages of hand-written journaling done, two years worth, that I did in the Penultimate app. I also do a lot of reading on my iPad; I generally read PDFs inside Goodreader, which allows me to underline and take notes with my stylus; last month I read almost all of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, and now I'm working on Moby-Dick (an old favorite of mine.) Being able to take notes, save those notes, print out or email a single page - these things are very useful.

In fact, I use my iPad to fill in every form I find myself having to fill in. These days, lots of places (the DMV, insurance companies, etc) will send you a link to a PDF and ask you to fill it in - which, of course, seems utterly ridiculous in this era. But that's no problem for me; in fact, I prefer it, because I can fill it in pretty easily on my iPad (by hand with my stylus, or typing the data in if I want it to look pretty) and then print it out. That way, I can keep a copy of every form that I am forced to fill in. I do this with leases, with insurance cards, with applications for things, etc. It's a great way to keep track of those things when I find I need them later, too (since that seems to happen often.)

Just in general, it's allowed me to simplify my life immensely. Huge stacks of paper and file folders filled with old receipts and crumpled-up forms have been replaced by a tiny device with a few Goodreader folders. And of course, I'm the type of (ADD) person who is benefited immensely just by having a calendar app handy all the time.

Another thing - I am a jazz pianist. My iPad has become pretty much indispensable for my music. Most jazz musicians lug around three phone books' worth of music books called "Real books;" I have all three of the standard volumes in PDFs on my iPad, and several other more obscure ones too. I have hundreds of pages of other sheet music that's instantly accessible, no filing necessary. I can take notes on anything I like - my iPad saves all of it.

Also - lots of musicians like me find it really useful to practice along to a prerecorded background at home; once upon a time people used pre-recorded tapes, and in the past few years there's been a desktop program called "Band In A Box." Last I checked, a Band In A Box license costs $300; that's how it often is with these niche pieces of software. But there's a fantastic little $8 iPad app called "iReal B" that does everything Band In A Box does, and more - it gives you simple chord sheets for 1200 songs, and easily plays backgrounds for you if you need it. And in addition, I have apps that help me format sheet music for people and transpose it for other instruments when I want other musicians to be able to play along with me.

My iPad is also a really good tool for actually creating music itself. There's a pretty fantastic sequencing / synthesizer app called Nano Studio that I use to create some electronic music (like this: http://soundcloud.com/koeselitz/the-end-of-the-beginning) just for fun. There are apps like Filtatron with filters and effects I can run sounds through if I want. And the iPad is good enough to work nicely for my own recordings of me playing my piano; the Soundcloud app lets me record directly and upload immediately if I want, or there's an app called Fourtrack that just acts as a simple four-track recorder if I want several parts in the recording.

The essential thing for me is that the iPad is miniscule when compared to all the things it's replaced. And at this point, I can pretty much do anything I need to on my iPad. I can download files and then open them in any app I want to; and I have players that work with any format under the sun no matter how obscure. There were days when having an iPad seemed to be limiting in that it was somewhat difficult to move files around and manipulate them, but as far as I can tell those days are mostly gone. It would be nice to have direct filesystem acccess - but I almost never miss it now.

Sorry this is so long, but you asked I guess. Really, there are things I never would have even thought to do if I hadn't had this device.

Thanks for the response. It has clearly made an impact on your life. I play guitar and have recently started learning to play a keyboard. I do find it very useful in that scenario.

The retina display made me a bit disappointed, until I realised how easy it is to read, compared to most any screen (my Linux portable has 15" 1920x1080, but even that is blown away).

I can read literature on a screen now! I have documentation in A4/letter size readable! That combination can't be matched, since larger eInk screens seems to become retired?

Arguably, this changed not only how I use computers but my life for better...

did you buy it?

I did, I'm a bit of a gadget geek

how do you like it?

or did he receive it today as a Microsoft employee?

No lol, i work at MemSQL

I have tried the Surface, and been using Windows 8 and Windows Phone for over a year. On the other hand Marco tried it for a couple of minutes, and arrived at a hasty conclusion without even giving it a fair try.

It is a completely different approach to iOS and Mac. And it is better. I can safely say Windows 8's Metro UI is miles ahead of Apple's iOS in terms of UI and UX. Metro UI is prettier, easier to use and by far more productive. Apple's iOS looks static, dull, ancient and boring compared to this.

"I have tried the Surface, and been using Windows 8 and Windows Phone for over a year. On the other hand Marco tried it for a couple of minutes, and arrived at a hasty conclusion without even giving it a fair try."

Yes but he us upfront about that. He isn't pretending it is a well researched review. He is writing about his experience.

ALSO - the UX issues he found are quite apparent on casual inspection.

Microsoft might have a lot of good ideas, but they're wasted if they can't execute them as well as Apple. No amount of apologising can force the buying public to favour Microsoft.

> People who dislike Apple’s approach or whose requirements are incompatible with it will always exist in great numbers, and the Surface is for them.

I disagree. Historically, Microsoft software products have been more customizable and more flexible than what comes from Apple. PC hardware as well. But what we're seeing now, with Windows 8, is a departure from that. Microsoft isn't just copying Apple's store -- they're copying the fundamental mind-set behind Apple's software. Instead of a general purpose computing machine, they're both trying to sell closed consumer electronics products. In my opinion, Microsoft took their biggest advantage and tossed it. People who dislike Apple's approach or whose requirements are incompatible aren't going to find much of an alternative. Microsoft seems to think they can compete with Apple on Apple's terms.

And thus Android/Chrome may become the new "frankenstein customizable" option, which MS has historically been.

Maybe Android, but I can't see how Chrome could be that. It's a browser that runs web applications. Every other OS has a browser and runs web applications.

Few weeks ago, there was a news about ballmer praising and hinting at adopting the Apple's approach of integrated hardware and software. Surface is the move in that direction.


True, but maybe the nature of the demand has changed, as computers have matured into consumer devices.

However... if some new way of using computers comes along, it seems more likely to emerge in a more open system (like windows or android or linux) than in a closed one. Or maybe at the level of ARM SoC, with its own hardware.

Quite a nice writeup.

It saddens me to see Microsoft disappointing, time after time. There must be great material for anthropologists to figure out how such an incredibly smart and talented group of people, with almost unlimited amount of money, can continue to be second-rate. In fact, comparing the cultures around Linux, MS and Apple is bound to reveal some greater truths about human/societal behavior which could be applied to improving the lot of countries and cultures which have stagnated.

How is the Surface disappointing? Explain please. Surface has by far the better hardware, and Windows 8 has a FAR better UI and UX than iOS. How is the Surface worse than the iPad? It's way ahead.

Most people seem to love the surface hardware, it's Windows RT I've seen most complaints about. Most people also seem to love the touch cover, and had a better experience than Marco.

I read this entire piece as a critique of the MS store. The Surface just happened to be what he tried to see/mess with; an activity that was constantly interrupted by the sales staff.

I went into my local MS store a few weeks ago (pre-surface). While I didn't encounter pushy salesmen, the rest of the experience was similar. The layout and design was a clear copy of Apple. The uniforms and the way they carried their ID on a lanyard was a clear copy. There was an "XBox Experience" section in the back no one was using. The Windows phones were covered in fingerprints, making it hard to see how nice the screens really were.

They're trying, but it was clear to me they needed some time and experience to round some rough edges.

Better hardware? How is the surface's harware better? Not even if we put aside the shitty screen.

  The pitches were aggressive, fast-paced, and competitively 
  defensive: they often mentioned “other tablets” and didn’t 
  let me forget which features were “not available on any 
  other tablet”.
This sounds like a description of the iPad mini keynote.

My thoughts exactly.

How surprising, Marco panning Microsoft products.

That store experience does sound awful though. There's nothing more off putting than over eager sales staff interrupting your curiosity.

I have been to MSFT stores in San Diego and Seattle. They were like that before Surface. I felt dirty, and a little sad for everyone in the store.

Visiting their store feels like you've stepped into a Halloween horror movie.

The staff must be forced to take lithium at the start of each shift. At the Microsoft store in Chicago, it's not only empty and in the least 'cool' part of the city (distant suburbs), but the constant demos felt like I was a victim in a Saw movie. I had to enthusiastically play a Kinect game... or else.

The Apple store do the forced cheering by sales staff. I find that really tacky.

Apple stores so crowded, its hard to get the attention of the sales guys. They are super busy, even on a monday morning. In santa clara, the microsoft store is right in front of apple store. Once I went to apple store on a monday morning, to fix my wife's phone. The apple store was packed at 10.30 AM, I had to wait 2 hours to get it fixed. So, to kill time I went into the microsoft store, which was literally empty. There were more staff than customers. I don't know why microsoft is opening stores.

Unverifiable anecdote from Apple fanboy does not equal data.

This comment borders on trollish. I have experienced crowded Apple stores myself in my own city (Beijing), two hour waits for repairs suck. That Apple stores have been very successful is hardly a secret or controversial. I can't really compare to Microsoft stores, since we don't have any here.

Disclaimer: I'm a Microsoft employee, hardly an Apple fanboy.

As a microsoft employee, can you buy an apple laptop use it at microsoft for work? for example doing presentations using macbook pro.

You weren't there today. That same Microsoft store was packed with people checking out the Surface and all the other new machines. The Apple store across the aisle was pretty quiet by comparison.

You should have seen the Santa Barbara Apple store in August on a Saturday evening. It was dead.

Apple stores can also have the irritating experience of five staff and six customers so you can't just buy the thing you came to the store for.

To be fair, in terms of Microsoft pieces from the big Apple bloggers, this comes off more fair than the stuff Gruber and MG write.

Overeager and abundant is at least better than useless or nonexistent.

That's pretty debatable and I will actually walk out of a store if staff continue to bother me after I have already politely said I do not need help. I have found that this happens all the time in consumer electronic stores. They circle you like vultures and butt in and explain things even after you have said you don't need or want their assistance.

Thank goodness for Internet shopping. Whenever I can I buy online specifically so I don't have to put up with sales people like the ones described in this article.

I routinely suffer going into a store and not being to able to find staff because they are busy chatting on the phone, or just openly not giving a shit. As much as I hated 'overeager' when I lived in the US, they could at least help me get the information or the product I was looking for.

This post is 1/100th as useful as full write ups from Wired, Verge, ArsTechnica, or Anandtech. It's just not deep, insightful, or meaningful in comparison. I'd highly recommend reading those reviews if you're looking for anything insightful about the Surface.

Seriously? blue uniforms, white name tags, flat display tables, guru bars... It's like they purposely tried to copy every distinguishable Apple retail formula except they're pushing PCs.

Does noone have any creativity left anymore?

"Does noone have any creativity left anymore?"

That's a good summation of most comments on HN about Windows 8 and the Surface. It's too bad, because it's exactly the same poor level of discourse that happened when OSX came out and ALL developers were on Windows or Linux.

Of course, when Apple finally releases a unified version of OSX and iOS and releases their convertible device, I'm sure it will be perfect.

You don't know Apple if you think they're going to release a convertible device.

Also there were plenty of shopping mall stands selling iPad keyboards months before Surface was announced. Keyboards aren't what makes tablets successful.

I guarantee you that Apple will release a converged device within 2-3 years, almost as much as I guarantee you that up until the day they release such a device, they will insist that the compromises associated with such a device would make it infeasible for them to build.

Honestly - who wants to carry both a Laptop and a Tablet - I currently do, but, if some clever company could figure out how to give me the best of both worlds (Light, 100% focus, responsive Tablet + Keyboard Base for laptop typing, shortcuts, touchpad, multi-tasking when I'm rocking out 20 Apps and 40 console windows) - then I'll be first in line. (And, if you really want to take over the world, release a device with a stylus that matches, or exceeds, the resolution of a typical pen-on-paper)

I'm actually quite intrigued by the Surface - looking forward to checking it out.

Now if only someone would write a decent Terminal.App for Windows RT.... (No, Putty and SecureCRT don't count. And I don't think either of them run on Windows RT anyways).

What is this guarantee based on? Apples DNA is to optimize the device for each use case.

A tablet is optimized for finger touch and on screen gestures. A laptop is optimized for portable productivity and keyboard input. You can't create a UI/UX that works best for both and Apple isn't about to start compromising.

My Air and iPad combined is lighter than most other laptops, when I want instant info + utility I whip out my iPad, when I need to do work I open the Air.

My 13" Macbook Air and iPad (Gen 1, 2, and 3) haven't been more than 35' away from me in two+ years except when I'm (A) Showering, or (B) going to the washroom. (And actually, because my shower is within 35' of my bed and gym locker, we can even eliminate that exception)

So, you don't have to convince me of the utility of each, and where they are optimized. But, I would so love to just have one sub 16 ounce gadget to carry around with me, with some amazingly easy to manage keyboard/touchpad (with a bunch of USB3.x ports) when I need it. It would also make keeping my video/song files a lot easier to keep synced.

Switch to OS/X when I've got the keyboard attached, and switch back to IOS when I don't. Or something. I don't know. But I really only want to carry / charge a single device.

You just explained the problem yourself. You are lugging two devices around, two devices that could easily be equally powerful but at the moment mostly are distinguished by different software.

We aren't normal people, though. The vast majority of computer users do not carry around a laptop to work on.

It's not about creativity when you're running a store. It's about finding a method that works and tweaking it to fit your product.

The creativity is in the product and advertising.

So every other tech retail company that doesn't copy Apple is foolish? If that's the case we're headed towards a bland, uninspiring world.

The loyalty of Apple's consumers speaks volume. It's only natural for tech companies to follow their lead. It's about great customers service and that's not limited to Apple.

Unless you want your restaurant to be known as the "best" in town. That requires more than just tweaking.

... food hasn't really changed much in our generation. Only tweaked by ways of cooking it.

I promise you - whatever you ate in the last week has only been tweaked. The creativity came with the people who created the dish long ago.

It's Microsoft. Microsoft has never been about innovation or creativity. I'm not one to bash them, it's just important to look back at their history. Their last innovation was the Start menu.

Is it just me, or does the Article really does comes across as quite snarky in tone rather than an honest observation of what he saw ?

It's just you.

Why oh why did I read another pointless Apple fanboy article. It really isn't worth taking sides with these big companies and their sales tactics... Both play cheap awkward tricks. Both are trying to get your money and manipulate your habits.

The last line of the article says it all "I fled Windows 8 years ago with no intention of returning". Wow, thanks for that information. I really needed to know about your blind faith in Apple, and your feelings for Windows. I'm sure you attend Apple store openings and queue for the high-fives and woot-woots.

> it wasn’t clear whether there just wasn’t a hidden context menu at that moment or I just screwed up the swipe

This was the hardest thing for me when I was trying out Windows 8. Was never sure the menu didn't exist or my mouse wasn't in the corner properly.

After reading maybe 1/4 of this I was left thinking if you can't say something positive, don't say anything at all.

Without criticism, nothing will improve.

Depends on the criticism. Constructive criticism, sure. Blinkered, petty, negative criticism from someone who made up his mind years ago? Not so much.

His impression pretty much matches mine, except I'm more enthused by the keyboard covers. I find OSKs intolerable; I agree with his assessment that Office is useless for creation - I will argue that having a full-fidelity viewer is very nice for attachment handling.

It's obvious that the writer is an Apple person but the piece doesn't feel too biased.

This makes me a little sad, I was rooting for Microsoft this time.

Doesnt't feel biased? Was I reading the same post?

As a Windows and Android user I feel that it wasn't.

Ok, enough is enough. I have read too much of this.

The author made serious points (even the store uniforms(!) are copied, bad animation handling, office apps are slow, etc, etc).

Why are the anti-Apple fan boys just complaining that the article is biased -- instead of showing that it is biased by answering the "biased" points?

The entire tone of his post from the outset seemed like he really had an axe to grind. It was like reading an article Fox News would publish about an Obama rally.

I asked for arguments against the content of the article.

You lack that?

Edit: The criticism of the Surface is echoed here: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/10/microsoft-surface-rt-revie... (I'm not going to bother to read more about non-retina pads/laptops. My eyes are too old and spoiled.)

Id have to quote the entire post to give you an example. I just found it to be overly smug and condescending, especially regarding Microsoft store employees (attempting to "trap" one of them with the soundcard question? Nerd arrogance at its finest.)

Granted there was a fair amount of valid criticism, but it was mainly the biased tone I was addressing.

Thanks, I am also tired of this conflation of valid criticism with "bias."

I am still rooting for Microsoft this time. I can see myself using surface as a reading device as well as popping up visual studio and writing code in C# :-)

This guy is naturally arrogant. I totally understand how Microsoft is missing the point but come on, what is the point of this article?, is he trying to point out that people are missing these kind of things?.

I don't why would an adult would even bother to write something like this.

This is totally true, this guy has crossed the line of constructive criticism. But its kind of obvious, his main (maybe only) income comes from apple, so he has to compare everything to his life provider.

> It was like arguing with a Tea Partier.

I'm sorry, but why was this comparison necessary?

It captures his frustration: arguing with someone, knowing no amount of logic or evidence will change their position.

An atheist might say its like arguing with a christian.

A pc person might say its like arguing with an apple fanboy.

Batman arguing with joker?

This was not a great or balanced blog post by any means, but I didn't think this sentence was the worst part.

Because he can't say arguing with a christian. Are you one of them?

I am not, it just seemed like an immature comparison to make.

I don't know why it is so hard to understand, that some people want to have the best experience.

The iPad does not everything, but at what it does, it tries to be the best.

The Surface is trying to be best at everything, but that creates so many trade-offs, it drags down the user experience.

I left Win XP, and Windows 7 did not make me come back, because there are so many things that lack decision making in leaving features out rather than putting everything in. Metro is a step in the right direction, but it needs more finish.

A computer should help you, and guide you to achieve a goal. A Win PC usually needs a lot of work to bend him in a way which enables you to do your task. And I have enough of that.

Why do I need experts in an Office program? Why not making the Office program so intuitive, that it is super easy to create a set of documents? Why not cutting unnecessary features out? A Metro version of Office, which does that, wouldn't that be great?

Furthermore, I don't want to tinker, I don't want to dig through five layers of settings.

I want to see the IT world going on. And Windows was not really helping in pushing the world forward in the last decade. Apple did. That's why some of the praise and "fanboism" is justified.

Let's see who leads the next decade, but have an open mind and acknowledge the fact that people like Marco, Gruber, or MG have an idea of what they are talking about.

They give credit where credit is due. But MS has to do a lot more to earn that credit. Maybe they have to cut some things out of the Metro side and go dual platform. It will help to make Metro something that pushes forward the whole industry.

When a lot of people are used to Win 8, maybe it's a good thing to go separate ways with Win 9. The "professionals" will use their desktop and the rest is used to Metro and maybe they will see how it excels the desktop version with ease of use.

I've got VMWare Fusion on a Macbook Air so I have the luxury of being able to pick my OS and application for most tasks (usually OS X, sometimes Ubuntu and rarely Windows). I took Windows 8 for a test drive today and I will be happily replacing the native OS X Calendar and Mail with the Windows 8 alternatives.

Mail? Seriously?

I'm using Windows 8 on my (non touchscreen) laptop, for the overall improvements on the platform and I'm very happy about it so far. And it means I have day to day experience using it.

And so far, I think the Mail-app is one of the weakest apps to the point where I wondered if Microsoft is seriously releasing this as their RTM, finalized Mail-client for the masses.

If I may ask: What part about it do you find so faverouble? Is there some hidden gem I have missed?

Noted in a sibling comment, not being able to drag mail is a bummer. And on further exploration I definitely miss being able to search. But selecting it and moving it isn't too bad, and I can use mail.google.com when I need to -- overall I'm not concerned about a lack of features for this desktop client.

My guess would be that they applied the Aol user principle to the mail app and figured you'd use Outlook if you need a more featureful application.

You can search with the search charm

Curious -- why so? Reviews that I read seemed to indicate that the mail application was quite weak (e.g. can't even drag and drop mail into folders).

That's a good point and I could see how it could be troublesome for some. For me, I like the simplified interface. The design is a driving factor for me, rather than features.

Just look at the caption of third image. He is so much into trolling that he didn't mind pulling his son into it.

This is pretty much the same insufferable stuff he goes into when he talks about Microsoft on his podcast. A general ignorance because he never uses the stuff (except long wnough to look for flaws) but that doesn't stop him from being an expert in his mind. I just hit the two minute skip button until I get to the Apple topics where I think he has informed opinions.

..but he used Microsoft products, 8 years ago! Doesn't that make him an expert on all things Microsoft?

well, he correctly noticed that the gestures and animations take a different approach than Apple's but that apparently just makes them "wrong" to him - Apple's is the only valid approach.

fwiw, here's a good presentation of the design rationale behind the use of animations in Windows 8: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/BUILD2011/APP-206T

Gestures: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechDays/Techdays-2012-the-N...

Can't you summarize? I don't have 120 minutes. If you spend one minute making your point, and I spend one minute reading it, this conversation will be more efficient.

Sources are great when they support or expand on points you're making, but they're no replacement for dialogue. The comments become really spammy if it's all just links to videos and research papers.

Yeah, I realized most / everyone probably wouldn't have time to watch but hoped someone might be interested. I guess my basic point is that the animations and gestures are deliberately designed to feel more precise and clarify the discrete actions you're taking (which is to put a more positive spin on what he describes negatively as "feeling like a computer" - not that either spin is right or wrong). It's a purposeful contrast to Apple's bubblier approach, it's not that they tried to make their animations like Apple's but Didn't Get It.

Thanks, that's a good point. I haven't seen the Microsoft Surface in person, but this is throwing some doubt on Marco's testimony.

Good lord... this is an article written by someone with an incredible bias. I mean he takes so many low-blows on the salespeople and belittles everyone and everything about the store. They are trained to sell things to an average consumer... not a tech-savvy blogger who knows his/her stuff. Most consumers don't even know what a sound card is or that a computer has ram. Marco needs to relax... not to mention that his mean-spirited article with identifiable employee faces could subject him to civil liability.

Am I the only one who finds this blind following of a specific platform all rather childish?*

Platform zealotry is the domain of children, the feeble minded and host of shills who feed on the above two groups (and the platform holder's marketing budgets).

* Rhetorical question (I expect that most HNers agree).

So apparently the stores are too much like Apple's, but the tablet is not similar enough.

The one to one feature comparison to the iPad is silly. The surface is not trying to be a carbon copy. Features like retina display come with trade offs in power, speed and cost that were obviously not worth the trade off. It seems that ever since Apple raised the issue pixels have gone from being something few ever thought about to being physically painful to consumer's eyeballs.

There were a few factual inaccuracies in Marco's post. The touch keyboard does allow you to rest your fingers on the surface. It's smart enought to recognize what is intended to be an actual keystroke. Rotating the screen does show a transition too; the screen shrinks, fades and expands.

I could not agree more with the distinction the author draws between Apple's products and Microsoft. Sure, Apple's ecosystem is limited, but Microsoft's offering is very rough and will do many tasks poorly at the cost of doing just a few tasks well.

This looks just like the Apple Store, but without the customers :)

I feel bad for Microsoft. When you are first with a new product with great benefits, everyone forgives your missteps, because it's the only one - the best there is. But when you copy, you are competing with something that has been through iterations of feedback and corrections and bugfix and improvement. You are held to that higher standard, even though you're just starting out!

Also, in the past, Apple regulated the user-experience with the Mac (whereas the PC was open), which seems to have been too constraining. It might seem that history could repeat here, but there's a crucial difference: tablets are now a consumer device, like Sony used to make.

This guy is biased. That's all.

So does this alleged "bias" invalidate his criticisms of Microsoft's retail efforts?

I don't know. That's the problem with bias. I haven't seen a surface in person or visited a Microsoft store, but from the entire tone of the article, I know I can't trust his account. He may be a veritable prophet with regards to Microsoft and the Surface, but if I can't trust him (and I don't), I'll have to figure that out on my own.

The pictures clearly show that the entire mall is empty, not just the Microsoft store.

Glad to see he went in there with an open mind.

not a ms person here(not at ALL in fact).

but ok i get it, was reading, then started skimming, then got to the conclusion tl;dr.

apple store employees handing out stupid useless flyers in the middle of the street in gangs of 3 is better of course.

microsoft is giving out muffin fragments? i'm surprised they gave out anything at all.

For Apple we have MG, Gruber and Marco. For Microsoft, is there any? And for Google?

I am waiting to see the pricing on the Surface Pro. That is what I am interested in. I was very close to buying an ultrabook but am holding off to see how the SP is as a general computer as well as a tablet.

Oh my.. this cringeworthy exchange reminds me of when Larry David tried selling cars :-) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neqO5y3Xaq8

Great article.

I get that some want the hardware upgradeability of MS PCs, but your can't do anything to Windows because its closed source. I buy Macs because I get the benefits of both a polished and (somewhat) open source operating system - not to mention its Unix. Also, in Apple hardware you actually know what you're getting - the majority of it is Intel. With other manufacturers unless you custom build your machine, its hard to know what you're actually getting inside beyond the specs on paper.

It is especially sad to read such an article after the release of iOS 6. Before, it was a bit rude, biased and all, but now I feel it cannot be justified anymore.

What are you trying to imply? That criticisms of Microsoft's retail efforts are no longer valid because Apple made a mistake with Maps?

Not exactly. I personally suffer from how the AppStore iOS application is made. Then the maps. The quality of many details is lost. After such obvious defects, it is hard to be in position to be extravagant and rude. The love is gone.

It's true that the Surface is coming in at a 10" form-factor when the iPad holds 70% of the market and the real battle is happening on the 7", slightly lower end market.

I had a bit of a tinfoil hat epiphany just yesterday about this... consider:

-Until now, Apple has been adamant about not releasing a smaller iPad.

-Apple has a ridiculously efficient supply chain which can probably adapt very well, considering the next point...

-Tim Cook just went on record saying that Apple wasn't concerned about product cannibalization.

-The Surface tablet is just about to stick it's foot in the door, well after Apple has established itself at the top.

Aside from the obvious (consumer demand), does anyone else think this might just be one of the most comfortable bets they can make? Put out 7" tablets while they're hot, let people forget about the Surface, by the time Surface 2 goes 7" they can push out a much newer full iPad line...

I honestly think Tim doesn't really see Microsoft as a threat just yet. The iPad mini is a response to low-price disruption from Amazon and Google.

I think Amazon's "$50/year data plan" gives more heartburn to Apple strategists than anything Microsoft has put on the table or even hinted at.

"It feels too much like using a Windows PC" ...bingo!

That's the point, Windows 7 and 8 offer great desktop experiences and having "one system to rule them all" is the selling point ...though I'd rather have an x86 version of the tablet with the ability to use exactly the same software since the type cover is basically a usable keyboard ...hope Intel does some magic with ultra low power x86 chips soon

The MS store employee who says you can't see any pixels is obviously lying, and I'm guessing that's what Microsoft told them to say.

This is just pure trollbait. It's disappointing to see it on HN, as it doesn't provoke any useful discussion whatsoever.

If the alternate universe is one where "you can expand and alter even if it sucks" then can I boot BSD on surface?

Of course, Apple clearly offers the best design, performance, user experience, documentation, reliability, and overall quality.


Can I have my UIGlassButton now?

Even Genius-blue-only would be a start.

Very entertaining. Thank you for posting!

>The Surface is partially for Microsoft’s world of denial: the world in which this store contains no elephants and Microsoft invented the silver store with the glass front and the glowing logo and blue shirts and white lanyards and these table layouts and the modern tablet and its magnetic power cable

Huh what? It looks like Marco's the one living in an alternate universe. I seriously doubt anyone would believe that. The whole "if you don't adore the iPad you're in denial" thing says more about the writer than the Microsoft store salesman. What bugs me the most about the Apple bloggers like Gruber, Siegler and Marco is their hate towards anything non-Apple, especially Android and Microsoft. It's one thing to like something, but to hate on something else because of that is very narrow minded.

I can't speak for MG, but Gruber and Marco definitely do not automatically dislike anything non-Apple. Read both of their writings on WebOS or Windows Metro UI for a positive spin on non-apple products or their writing on Game Center, Ping, App Store reviews for an anti-Apple slant.

Both men have a strong appreciation for usability, look-and-feel, intuitiveness and consistency in their electronic gadgets. They both get pigeon-holed as Apple apologists because Apple is the only major electronics manufacturer that seems to care one iota about these things, but when another company comes along and gets theses details right, neither Marco or Gruber will hesitate to praise them.

I call B.S. on this. Marco and Gruber are effectively Apple shills, but more clever than one like MG.

Gruber and Marco are tactical in their praise of non-MS products. They'll praise something they think has no chance of threatening Apple. Despite Android's flaws, there's also tons of stuff in it worth praising, but you'll rarely (if ever) hear them say a peep about Android.

Likewise, Surface is a LOT more threatening than Windows Phone. They don't view it as a cute toy, but rather a serious threat to the iPad.

Don't you find it the least bit odd that Marco does a story about his experience at the MS store, with pictures of an empty store and never references any of the stories that talked about full stores?

If Marco and Gruber actually like a new Windows device it likely means they don't think it will sell much. If they think it has potential, they'll find a way to bash it.

Lets think about this whole concept of being an Apple shill for a moment. Assuming they are Apple shills, why do you think they are? What drives them? What factors created the Apple shill? What do they gain by being an Apple shill?

Why do you think they care if the Surface does well? Because it would disprove some fragile mental modle they have where they place a more importance on aesthetics and interface than customizability and price? Why are they trying so hard to make Apple look good? Do they just think Apple's awesome without really thinking about it?

How many articles do you think Marco's read about packed Microsoft stores? Based on most of his articles, he writes about his experiences without generally using aggregate data to come to some conclusion about anything. Maybe you have an issue with his methods here, but I don't think you're likely to find him talk about other people's experiences, especially people who he likely doesn't read. (ie. He's not going to do much research into other articles about Microsoft stores before writing this story.) Maybe you don't like that, but he's consistent about it. If someone wants to look up every article about MS stores, his can be one data point.

Again, why do you think Gruber and Marco are actively trying to influence the sales of Apple devices? Do you think Gruber is doing it to get rich? He has a ton of stock and is trying to bump marketshare? I just can't find a reason that Marco and Gruber would directly lie about their thoughts on a product based on their predictions of future sales.

Assuming they are Apple shills, why do you think they are? What drives them? What factors created the Apple shill? What do they gain by being an Apple shill?

Is this supposed to be a difficult exercise? The reasons are rather obvious IMO -- they have a lot of social and technical capital in the Apple ecosystem.

Based on most of his articles, he writes about his experiences without generally using aggregate data to come to some conclusion about anything.

Just perusing the first page of his blog seems to indicate otherwise.

Why did they chose the Apple ecosystem? Gruber's been in the ecosystem a long time, but Marco made a choice within the past ten years. It's not like they made the choice for no reason.

Where on the front page does Marco write a long form article where he bases his opinions on the opinions of others?

Gruber happily posted Wired's positive review of surface, commenting "Interesting review of an interesting device."

They will both give Apple the benefit of the doubt while not doing the same for others. Apple flaws are unimportant, others flaws are crazy bad.

For instance, Gamecenter is just terrible on iOS. Looks tacky, barely works. How you treat that in a review is very revealing of your partisan positions. You could make it the centerpiece and how it shows that Apple is losing its touch in new features and is on a downward spiral. Or you could just ignore it.

Just FYI: since the recent release of Loren Brichter's Letterpress app (wild success), the iOS cognoscenti on Twitter have been doing nothing but bashing Game Center from all directions--performance, reliability, etc.--, including Gruber.

Yeah but it seems more like they are bemused by it thank actually seeing it as something to criticize Apple for.

Plus there's the standard "Apple doesn't do web services well" thing that seems to excuse a lot.

I agree with you but "Apple doesn't do web services well" should NOT be an excuse anymore.

When they're using and promoting iCloud and Siri as much as they do, they're in the 'web services' game.

Isn't Surface all Metro-y?

The whole thing is starting to remind me a lot of conservative talk radio/TV. The clique of Apple tech pundit A-listers reliably delivers a predictable message to willing listeners/readers. They are not in general good tech reviewers IMHO, and they fill the gap with an exceedingly arrogant and condescending tone. But, like conservative broadcasters, they probably are making a lot of money doing their quasi-tech-related button pushing.

It is a bit annoying to see apparently sharp people looking so often brainwashed, but I more or less ignore it at this point.

Non-apple partisans see their counterparts as brainwashed idiots incapable of thinking beyond what a single company offers in a sleek packaging; and those in favor of Apple see the critics as tasteless individuals with no sense of design, and who just don't get what it means to build hardware purely for the end user.

I doubt there's any way out of this :)

Sure there is. Determine the bias of people through empirical study. I've seen people "in love" with their iP*. Any claim against Apple they take as a personal insult, even when presented with fact after fact. It's annoying. In some way it's a bit like religion, really. Otoh I've seen anti-Apple people behave in the same way, hating Apple as it is the offspring of Great Old Ones and Satan. They might actually be only thing worst that Apple-lovers.

Of course Apple changed the way in-person selling of computers. If you need evidence of this today, find a Best Buy. That was your option before the Apple Store way of doing it.

The last time I was in an Apple store (more than a year ago) I grabbed what I needed and then a kind woman walked up to me and double-checked that was what the item my MacBook needed. She scanned my card right there and I left knowing my Gmail account had a receipt mailed to it. The whole thing took 5 minutes. And the store was crowded at the time too! It was exactly how I would want a retail experience to be. She double checked, then I paid and left. bam.

Before the Apple Store, where could you go to get EVEN REMOTELY the same experience? Best Buy? Circuit City? Oh no wait, I know, CompUSA! Sure, buddy.

(I know some will try to denounce me as just an Apple fanboy. To that I would point out that for years I exclusively used Linux so I feel fine looking down on both Apple and Microsoft :P That said, it is just that in this instance, Microsoft is clearly playing catch up.)

Actually, back in the 90's, when PC margins were much higher, there were a plethora of small boutique PC builders out there. Many of them were far nicer than the Apple stores of today. Since they could turn a profit in the kilobucks on a good sale they tended to go to greater lengths to woo customers. Nice decor, not cold-looking ikea cast-offs. Free coffee and snacks. Aeron chairs in front of high-end demo rigs loaded with the latest software, whether it was AutoCAD or Half Life. The salespeople at these places tended to be genuine computer geeks who would enthusiastically gush about anything you asked them rather than bored kids who you can see going through the Apple protocol binder in their heads after every question you ask them. Most systems coming out of places like this were custom, right down to the installed applications.

Of course, PC margins gradually shrank until they basically became commodity items. Assembling PC's gradually got easier too. e.g. When was the last time you had to set IRQ/DMA channels via dip switches or had to worry about which side of that ribbon cable goes to pin 0? Assembling a PC today is practically impossible to mess up, so a lot more people do it themselves. As nice as many of these boutiques were and despite the care that many of them put into their work, their business model simply became unsustainable. Note that Apple's computers were also sold in some boutique stores at one point, although in the 90's stores specializing in Apple products were already not doing well because Apple of the 90's was decidedly unsexy. (The stores of the 90's specializing in Apple products that I can remember were all decidedly dingy actually...)

Please do not say that Apple "changed the way" computers are sold in person. They didn't. They leveraged their higher profit-margins to build stores similar to those that their own hardware had been sold in barely a decade earlier. This let them cut out retailers, increase vertical integration, and maximize profits. There is nothing new about Apple stores except scale and profitability in an era of commodity pricing. Don't get me wrong, that's admirable, but from a business stand-point, not from a user-experience stand-point.

I remember being the guy on the other side of the counter at a small mom and pop computer store in the mid nineties that catered to local small and mid-sized businesses. We always had fresh coffee and pastries, huge leather bound chairs to hang out and the owner always kept a decent selection of wine, scotch, and cigars on hand.

We had regular customers who came by every week for a cup of coffee and to chat about what was new, and on Saturdays we came in and opened the store just to hang out with people and play games on the LAN.

Every machine was custom built for the customer. People who didn't know much about computers got an education and our recommendation for the best parts (we knew what manufacturers parts we had to send back). People who knew what they wanted got exactly what they wanted. We would even take your old machine and copy/reconstruct all the software, settings and data to the new machine.

Then the race to the bottom happened in the late 90's and there was no more margin for that sort of service. The company is still around, but they got bought out years ago by a services business and the owner left and started a business selling things made from reclaimed wood.

I miss the craftsmanship, attention to detail and customer service.

Apples and oranges. The computer store as rarefied design-temple cum chic-hangout-spot is all-Apple and a real innovation. An innovation that only became possible this decade, after Apple made computers mainstream and fashionable, with a little help from iPods and iPhones. There's a shift in the interface of computing technology and wider culture underway and it is embodied in a lot of what Apple is doing, and the Store is an important element in that shift..

Another important point of difference was that Apple built its retail experience on such an ambitious scale. But the real innovation was to see it before anyone else and execute so consummately, and execute without any prompting. Apple crossed all the ts and dotted the is -without- any real competition to one up - just because they thought it was the right thing to do. That's why Microsoft looks so weak with their stores. Because they're only doing it to try and look cool, after someone else did it. Whereas Apple simply is cool. Real cool is effortless.

This isn't some checklist comparison, this is about the essence of how a corporation thinks and acts.

I remember buying my first Commodore Amiga. A small, local store, where they let you play around with the machine and showed you games and demos. Friendly, no hard sell, and cash discount.

The guys running the store would give you honest opinions about the software and hardware, they would tell you not to buy something if they figured it wasn't really what you needed.

The Apple Store offers a great retail experience, it's streamlined to process sales quickly, and the staff are friendly, but I don't get the feeling they really care about what they're selling.

I worked as a specialist(sales) at Apple's highest grossing retail store(5th avenue) while finishing school last winter, and you're basically correct.

Apple hires sales people almost entirely on the basis of attitude. The philosophy is essentially that you can teach them the basics(and telling customers you don't know and then going to find out is strongly encouraged) but its harder to teach customer service skills. There's no commission and was never any pressure to move through customers quickly.

For 90% of the products apple sells, this strategy works pretty well. The exception is obviously macs, and even there 80% of your interactions require minimal knowledge.

So you end up with friendly staff that's not particularly passionate about the tech specs. Which is clearly preferable the unknowledgeable and commission driven model of big box retailers, but a far cry from the small shops of the 90s.

Overall it's a hard strategy to argue with. The demographics of computer users has changed dramatically since the heyday of the boutiques, and tailoring your strategy to target the enthusiast demographic tends to alienate the non tech savvy majority.

This post hit me like a train full of nostalgia!

The "local" store for me was The Memory Location in Wellesley, MA.

I prefer just ordering gadgets on amazon and have them delivered to my doorstep. Beats having to walk to the store :-)

To be honest, it's time to ban Macro's blog from HN. Every time one of his trollbait posts hits the frontpage of this site (and they somehow always do), we have these exact same discussions about how him and Gruber and Siegler are incapable of looking at the technology industry without bias.

Wait, ban a site because it's consistently popular on HN? Clearly, many people here agree with him. (I don't, but that's OK)

That's such a double standard. Android is a much more popular smartphone OS than iOS, but Macro wouldn't make an Android version of Instapaper. He said it was because he didn't have time to develop for Android (though we all know the truth is that he just irrationally hates all non-Apple platforms) - perhaps we on HN just don't have the time to wade through useless trollbait posts like this one. And those HN users that agree with him and are upvoting the post (just like Android Instapaper users) aren't important.

> we all know the truth is that he just irrationally hates all non-Apple platforms

That sure looks like an absolutely rational portrait of someone else's mind.

If you'd actually read his past blog posts, you'd know that it's the only logical conclusion that can be drawn.

Supporting a second platform is a bit more involved than learning to program for Android. Since both Android and iOS currently have functionality that competes with Instapaper, I too wouldn't invest one single dime on it.

Supporting a second platform is indeed a significant investment. I'm aware of that - I'll never develop for iOS because that would mean I'd have to buy a Mac, buy an iOS device, learn Objective-C/iOS development, and how to navigate Apple's app approval gauntlet. However, there's a big difference in the numbers when you have an app with a lot of users. For example, you can have someone else make the app (which, to his credit, Marco did do after years of foot-dragging).

Your point about competing functionality is moot, because that means he should abandon iOS as well. In fact, in that case, he should favor Android, since's Apple's draconian app approval policies means that Instapaper could suddenly get kicked out of the app store without notice.

In any case, allowing Marco's blog on HN means that it pushes more other, more valuable content out of the way. By banning sites like his, we wouldn't have to waste time wading through his mindless drivel to find useful links.

Funny, because Paul Thurrott's http://winsupersite.com is completely banned from being on HN, most probably from overzealous MS haters flagging articles to death.

I think that's ridiculous too. In fact, I'm as much a fanboy of Microsoft as Marco is of Apple - my comment wasn't about the content, it was about the ridiculousness of banning popular sites about HN-typical topics.

Well it is a disgusting site (an ad over the article, really?). I hate both Microsoft and Apple equally and I'm glad this one is gone from HN.

Trollbait? Writing an article that you personally disagree with is not trollbait, and it's rather ridiculous of you to claim that it is.

For a troll, everything is troll bait .

While I disagree with the option of banning this blog - it's pretty well written - I don't see why it always makes it to the front page. The TL;DR of this article is "Microsoft is blatantly trying to copy Apple but I still don't like Surface". That's his opinion and it's fine, but I don't see what else there is to learn from the post except for the fact that Marco is not going to buy the new Surface.

So I'd be really curious to know what makes people on HN upvote this kind of stories.

It's probably deliberate, to annoy the very vocal Marco-haters.

> we have these exact same discussions about how him and Gruber and Siegler are incapable of looking at the technology industry without bias.

The most vicious discussions come from people who cannot see the tech industry without their own biases opposite to the one in the articles. Should we ban those too?

Yes the whole article reeked of fanboyism at its peek. Why do we have to compare everything to Apple? Maybe I prefer USB ports and SD Slots over the unnoticeable weight and the retina display or maybe it is because I can finish up my office documents on the go. Just because it is not useful to you does not mean it won't be useful to anyone.

Glad it doesn't happen with other things in real life, glad people have different tastes and preferences, else we will be living in a world with only one brand of car, one brand of clothing, one brand of ...

Why? Well how about because everything Microsoft is doing reeks of the comparison? It's Microsoft who stamps their jealousy all over themselves, not bloggers.

Plus, to compare the differences between Microsoft and Apple to rival car or clothing companies is just wilfully disingenuous. In consumer tech, they are the giants, and they are not even close to the parity in products or corporate culture that typify the markets you've chosen. Consumer tech is not a mature market. And the differences between Microsoft and Apple are glaring.

Why do we have to compare everything to Apple? We don't. But it makes perfect sense to compare both the Surface tablet and Microsoft stores in general to Apple, as they are very explicitly trying to compete with Apple's dominance. Microsoft stores are even designed to resemble Apple stores, down to the employee uniforms, in a desperate attempt at cargo cult retailing. And given the success of the iPad, any tablet device made today is going to get compared to it.

"Why do we have to compare everything to Apple?" - Because Marco is an Apple pundit? Because he makes his living creating and selling IOS software and services? I would think, by now, anybody on HN would know what what type of slant they would be getting on theloop, marco.org, parislemon, and daringfireball.

He may be a fanboy, but in this case it makes perfect sense to compare something like the Surface tablet to similar Apple products. Yes, there are other tablet computers out there, and yes, tablets did exist before the iPad, but Apple's offering has become the mainstream benchmark for tablet computers, whether you like Apple or not.

They hate it because it sucks. His whole article is about how much and why it sucks.

Then he concludes that maybe it doesn't suck. Maybe it's just him.

It reminds me of Winston Smith, wondering whether it's he that's insane after all.

It's not about "sucks," it's about the difference between being a market leader and someone trying to emulate a market leader with no understanding of why things are popular.

Touch? Sure, let's do touch, but we won't consider human aspects like the size of on screen elements.

Gestures? Sure, let's make things swipe and tap and zoom. Why? Why not? The other people do it.

Animations? Sure, they are pretty. Let's animate some things. They are optional and meaningless anyway, so we can be sparse and nobody will care. They should be happy we added animations anyway!

Wooden tables with see through table toppers with t-shirted employees? It's just the natural order of things. We aren't copying anybody.

That's kind of a grandiose comparison don't you think? 1984 is a cautionary (prescient?) fable about a totalitarianistic dystopia and the other is a tedious rant about consumer electronics in a shopping mall.

There are some funny parables that can be drawn between 1984 and the way iOS walled garden functions. It's not the same ofc, but to the hacker ethos it behaves in much the same way.

EDIT: Just to make sure, by hacker ethos I consider something in the lines of Stallman which is a staunch proponent of tinker everything.

And the way Windows RT's walled garden works?

I automatically interpreted that statement as a reference to the idea that Microsoft is kind of playing catch-up and suffering from a case of 'me too' in the world of tablets and brand-specific retail stores.

I personally can't see anything pointing to an attitude of "if you don't adore the iPad you're in denial" coming from either the article author or Microsoft.

The article's description of the Microsoft store experience and their staff basically makes me think of a small, stubborn child covering their ears and yelling "Blah, blah, blah. I can't hear you!" when competing products and companies are brought up.

> The whole "if you don't adore the iPad you're in denial" thing says more about the writer than the Microsoft store salesman.

You misread the blog post. He described a lot of bad details regarding the usability. For example, sluggish rotating, the keyboard cover which is advertised as a distinguished feature isn't that good for typing.

Overall this blog tells a lot of things that I haven't seen elsewhere.

and that tells you he is right and everybody else wrong?

To me it's simply a matter of perspective. Personally, while I haven't used a Surface, I already know my opinions will fall precisely in line with Marco's. No one is right or wrong in this argument, all that matters in the end is which side has the majority that is most willing to fork over the cash.

I can almost see the executives at the last company I worked for salivating over the Surface. Many, many people will always see Apple products as superficially limiting and excessively expensive (even when the PC alternative costs more). My liberal-minded art student friends? They've already got iPads.

I think the dichotomy Neil Stephenson outlines in In the Beginning was the Command Line[1] is as true today as it ever was. Apple is Pepsi to MS's Coke, Obama to MS's Romney. Technology consumers fall into very distinct categories, and while Marco obviously falls into one of those, I think he does a good job of highlighting the difference in thought. This is why Microsoft exists and will continue to exist as long as Apple does. They are the anti-Apple.

[1] http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html

Gruber Loves the Nokia Lumia. He's written quite a bit about how he appreciates its style. He's also quite intrigued by the metro style elements of Windows Phone 7.


> if you don't adore the iPad you're in denial

That's not what he said, that's out of context. You're extending it to some ridiculous extreme.

I don't think the Surface itself has any "elephants." While iOS may have the most time-tested and polished touch interface, I do think the Surface is doing some really interesting work to explore and redefine modern interfaces. You can call it imperfect for sure, but you have to admit it's innovative.

Meanwhile, I do agree with Marco about the Microsoft Store. That is absolutely a strategy of copying what works in an Apple Store. It does feel a bit spooky, and I think they would have done their products a better service by showing the same innovation and creativity here, too.

Two expressions seem to fit the Microsoft Store: "uncanny valley" and "cargo cult".

You have to wonder why he even bothered setting foot in the place.

If anybody is planning an anthology, the domain name for 'Fifty Shades of Apple' is still available.

You need some credibility before you write articles about huge corporations that have achieved something. Atleast you must be somewhere near the top of the hierarchy where your subject is, to understand fully about them, so you can even consider writing about them. I fail to see how a guy with an app on an Appstore can think he is credible enough to write about a huge corporation that has taken risks he wouldn't even imagine taking himself and has had first hand experience and information about the market better than this guy. Microsoft is the one that makes the marketplace and Marco is just someone who submits his apps there. That's the difference in their positions in the hierarchy. What a shitty article.

He walked into a store and hated it. For any company that cares about success he is credible.

So, in order to have an opinion, one must have credibility? Credibility in whose eyes? Yours? Mine? This is, in my opinion, an utterly ridiculous comment in it its elitist and exclusionary tone. Are but a dog on a leash? I ask because you've basically just stated that corporations are beyond criticism from individuals. So, apparently we should all be corporate zombies like you, just toeing the line, never questioning... Yes, that is much better for the world.

The irony is that all the people hacking on Marco for giving his opinion are doing exactly the same thing right here. So let me get this straight - as long as you (or anybody) agrees with a stated opinion, then that opinion should be allowed to exist, praised even. But once you disagree with that opinion then you will come up with countless reasons why that opinion should be removed. Hypocrite.

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