What Microsoft Gets Fundamentally Wrong About Making Tablets

Analyzing the top news stories across the web
Nov. 2 2013 12:55 PM

Surface 2 Review: "What Am I Supposed to Do With This Thing?"

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I tried to like it—really, I did.

Photo by TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

I've spent the past week testing out a Microsoft Surface tablet. While testing out the Surface, I kept thinking of something Microsoft's head of communications, Frank X. Shaw, recently wrote. In a blog post defending the Surface and attacking Apple's iPad, he said, "Let’s be clear—helping folks kill time on a tablet is relatively easy. Give them books, music, videos and games, and they’ll figure out the rest. Pretty much all tablets do that."

This flippant comment rings of the truth. It sounds right. Just make a tablet, add some games, let the users show up. Seems pretty basic for a tech company. After using the Surface 2, though, it's clear that Shaw's comment is way off the mark. The Surface makes it evident that there's nothing "easy" about making a tablet that's good for entertainment.

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The Surface isn't good for gaming. It isn't good for entertainment. Maybe it's good for doing work, but personally, I don't need to do work on a tablet, and I'm not convinced the majority of people need to do work on a tablet. The Surface doesn't even have Candy Crush, which is the most popular game on the planet right now. It doesn't have Scrabble. Those are the two games I play most on an iPad. They're also the games my Mom and wife play. They're popular with a lot of people.

As for video, I use the iPad as a mobile TV in my house. If my wife is watching something on TV, I fire up the Watch ESPN app, or the FiOS app that streams TV. This way, I can watch baseball or football quietly on my own. I didn't see either of those apps on the Surface. As as a result, all I could do with the Surface was check Twitter and surf the web. Those are the most basic features possible on a tablet.

And even the web and Twitter are worse on the Surface than the iPad. The software is still jaggy and inconsistent. I want to like the Surface, but I really can't think of one reason to recommend it to a normal person over the iPad. It was not "easy" to keep myself entertained on the Surface. I just kept thinking, "What am I supposed to do with this thing?" I wasn't going to use Excel or Word. I was sitting around, trying to relax.

As I used it, I just kept thinking about Shaw's comments. He's wrong. It's hard to build a great device for gaming, and video, and everything else. The Surface proves it.

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