ZDNet Sr. Tech Editor Perlow: Microsoft’s Surface has catastrophe written all over it

Jason Perlow is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. He is Senior Technology Editor at ZDNet.

“Maybe I’m just cranky because I had to work a 12-hour day, waiting for an event to finish on West Coast time when I really just wanted to take my wife out to dinner instead,” Jason Perlow writes for ZDNet. “But Microsoft’s new Surface tablet still has catastrophe written all over it.”

“Absolutely nothing was said about price or availability. Only that the Windows RT/ARM version will ship around Windows 8 RTM timeframe, and the Pro/Intel version will ship 3 months after that,” Perlow writes. “So let me get this straight, Microsoft. You made journalists schlep across the country, no, the planet, for a product that might not ship for months? You’re lucky they didn’t burn the venue down.”

“Okay, no ship date, no prices and… no compelling 3rd-party applications or even Office to show on it whatsoever,” Perlow writes. “So we have no idea how well it performs, and how well supported it will be by 3rd-party software developers. No partnerships to speak of. Nada.”

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote about “Surface,” in part, last night: “It’s all still just vapor. No prices. No shipping date(s). No actual sizes and weights. No nothing.”

Perlow writes, “Right now, Microsoft’s OEMs — with the exception of whatever ‘lucky’ company got the nod to do the contract manufacturing for this product — must be absolutely livid. To produce their own ARM and x86 Windows 8 systems, they have to pay exorbitant licensing fees. Windows RT is going to cost an estimated $85 per copy to your average OEM. A Windows 8 Professional license on x86 will be considerably more. I don’t care what the hell Microsoft says about partners having cost and feature parity, that’s $85 of pure margin advantage that Microsoft has and the OEM doesn’t.”

“All of this reeks of suicidal thinking from a company that wants to deep six its long-established manufacturer ecosystem,” Perlow writes. “It does not reflect the actions of a company that tried so hard to shed long-held industry perceptions of being a monopolist, and worst case, it could potentially re-ignite federal antitrust activity that Microsoft has spent more than ten years digging itself out of.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
Microsoft previews own ‘Surface’ tablet – June 18, 2012
Microsoft touts ‘major’ June 18 event said to showcase Windows RT tablets – June 15, 2012
ZDNet’s Kingsley-Hughes: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is an awful, horrible, painful design disaster – June 8, 2012
Analyst meets with big computer maker, finds ‘general lack of enthusiasm’ for Windows 8 – June 8, 2012
Dvorak: Windows 8 an unmitigated disaster; unusable and annoying; it makes your teeth itch – June 3, 2012
The Guardian: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is confusing as hell; an appalling user experience – March 5, 2012
More good news for Apple: Microsoft previews Windows 8 (with video) – June 1, 2011


  1. Did anyone notice on the Microsoft web site that “Images are design renderings and not photographs” ?

    So the current imagery of Surface™ is simply CGI?

  2. what is wrong with MSFT the zdnet article title states?
    simple: MSFT, like google or dull Dell, has lost its mojo + marbles since day 1, producing nothing but vaporware, surface aka facade crapware

    WTF happened to MSFT hiring the world’s top 100 brains at a $1M salary + bonus each – who have never created a single practical item in 2 decades?!

    when is the public going to boycott & give up on buying anything from them incl. stock shares?! how can humans be fooled for so long.

    MSFT will end up like IBM’s PCs: IBM once the Big Blue unbeatable as a God, crumbled as it now sells only hot air (consulting) and tiles & carpets (on commercial level)!

    to think that all those 1000s of brains working at MSFT, not to mention any of Apple’s competition, and to see that all hope in humanity depends on the cheap shit they all wish to challenge Apple with, it’s very sad to be or feel human.

    if it were up to open-source, googly goo, microdough, dull dell, rim job, knockia, sam sung, sonyty, moto roller etc. the world would be in the stone age or at least not civilized – as it would take people for fools 24/7.

    i take Apple’s closed but Smooth Operator a la Sade any time. at least you don’t have to masturbate from all the spastic, neurotic, hedonistic, politically correct, cumbersome, awkward CrypticWare that’s so complex, buggy, slow, virus-prone, crashy, inconsistent, chaotic, that you become contorted in physique & mind, probably get a seizure too young and/or wish to commit suicide personally or in your career – literally jumping out the Window(s) !

    MSFT, it’s staff, fans…are all Crazy – but unlike Apple’s Think Different nuts, they do not think enough to change the world…

    MSFT: stop f’g with me, us (as the 2 Jacksons sang), stop spitting on our intelligence, start respect our hard-earned $ that keep you alive you pricks. we long ago, started using non-dough stuff, so who are you producing for anymore, except those slaves to the rhythm of your licensed beat…

      1. so what if it’s a rant?
        you miss the point.
        it’s not about venting off steam but about the truth.

        i have never used a Microsoft product in 3 decades that didn’t hinder my daily productivity. period.

        1. And of course the Surface tablet crashed During the demo and they just grabbed another from under the table. How’s that for living up to your history.

          Microsoft had been making tablets for 10 years that never took off and failed, and now they repeat the same thing over again with new hardware.

          The Pro Surface version cost to upgrade path will follow Microsofts model, users will have to purchase a new version at an extremly high price, Bet on it.

          Microsoft gives nothing away for free and they still are a software company that has failed in hardware, other then Xbox and that is debatable.

          This is what we have come to expect from Microsoft….

      1. wow. i always wished for your Feedback Mr. Ballmer’s Left Nut ; )

        i appreciated your humor forever with your swell name!

        at least someone appreciates my comments for what they are, not a rant, but the truth.

        keep enjoying your left nut but don’t ignore your right one,

  3. To be fair to Microsoft in one regard, if other hardware manufacturers are going to moan about paying for Windows then they know what they can do – go write their own OS, or use Linux.

    Yes, Microsoft relies on hardware companies to sell it’s OS, there’s nothing to say than in principal they shouldn’t make hardware – it’s not as if other companies do a particularly good job.

    Ultimately, I don’t care though. iOS and OS X all the way.

    1. Microsoft’s problem is that they made this closer to a notebook replacement (with the keyboard, ports, OS and you just know the price will be more than an iPad).

      So that creates three problems.

      As opposed to Apple’s approach of making a compelling “third device”, this product will cannibalize notebook sales. That hurts OEMs, and it keeps squeezing MS margins on Windows.

      It sets the bar high. Users will expect a notebook experience — people will be disappointed.

      Developers may not jump in like they did on iPad. They can simply wait to see if this takes off, knowing their legacy software will work for some versions of the Surface.(And that’s a whole other problem. Try explaining to my Mom the difference between ARM and x86 Surface models).

  4. Did they actually demo any of its usage at the keynote? Did they type on the amazing keyboard, or did they just show videos of it being typed on and what it would look like if it was actually working. I heard it crashed which makes sense since it’s Microsoft. Microsoft can even make vaporware crash!

        1. No they didn’t according to the press. They had non-working models which the media was allowed to hold for 60 seconds. No keyboard to type on, nothing.

    1. Crash during demo, eh? Deja vu. One has to wonder if this was planned and simply a fact of life in the Microsoft tradition. That said, they will most likely sell to the IT/MS users of the world that migrate from Android or consider a tablet for the first time. The big battle brewing is IT corporate trying to convince users to give up their iPads. Remains to be seen if the tentative tablet is good for competition, or not. Too many vapor factors and CGI images out there right now …

  5. What I find amazing is Balmer is still in charge. Apple famboyism aside – how can M$ shareholders not fire this guy? XBOX is positioned to really kick ass to be a true platform and it appears to be ignored. It’s like Balmer is trying to fail – as I really can’t imagine anything more he can do to fuck up.

    1. Just because you can’t doesn’t rule out Monkey Boy being able to. Apple produces more than just iPods and iPads and their OS that Microsoft can attempt to copy (and screw their hardware vendors further). Let’s see what he comes up with in the future.

    2. Despite Apple fans’ desire for SB to stick around “for as long as it takes,” I really can’t see Microsoft’s Board of Directors letting him stay on if the Surface becomes the unmitigated disaster it looks like it will be. He survived Zune, but I don’t think he’ll survive Surface.

  6. What amazes me about this whole thing is the hypocrisy: First Balmer says that Apple’s path of making both the hardware AND the software is wrong and that they make the software and let the hardware guys make the hardware, then they go and do exactly what Apple does!

    As they say, “imitation is the highest form of flattery” (or as Jobs once said: “Redmond, start your copiers”). In any case, nice to see Micr$oft validating Apple’s path (once again).

    That said, I’m not sure the i5 will fail as much as you all seem to think: It’s a real PC (unlike the iPad), which means it can:
    – do Flash
    – connect with Thumb drives/cameras/hard disks/etc
    – Print without needing AirPrint
    – Run ALL desktop software (like Office)

    Admittedly, not many people need that (and if they do, they usually buy a laptop), but it might be able to compete somewhat.

    But the ARM version is DOA if only because there are essentially ZERO apps for it (even if there are, say, 100 apps for it, 100/650,000 is as close to zero as your favorite rounding error allows).

    Still, they get an A for persistence (of course they get an F for everything else, but hey- I like to look on the bright side). 🙂

      1. Oh missed some things,
        iPad can hook up cameras and USB just fine with the adaptor, including memory cards.

        All modern printers have wireless so whats this about AirPrint? and why would I want to teather my tablet with a cable to a printer anyway, takes away the portability now doesn’t it.

        Let’s see, run all desktop software like office-

        well you need the Pro version for that to happen, also it’s heavier and thicker then the iPad, oh and let’s not forget the base model will be close to $1200.00 US, unlike the RT version that comes with a watered down Office you must purchase Office separately for the Pro Tablet at the regular retail price since it is fully more like a ultra book and can run on any computer laptop or desktop.

        But I don’t really disagree, I just see it a bit diffrently, anyway we look at it it’s a mystery on how this is going to do, but I don’t see it breaking any records.

        1. @ KC: All modern printers have wireless so whats this about AirPrint? and why would I want to teather my tablet with a cable to a printer anyway, takes away the portability now doesn’t it.

          Well stated. In the 80s and 90s I was traveling overseas quite a bit doing support and field trial work. I had a small canvas bag that I packed for every trip that contained all sorts of electrical and telephone adapters, cables, a breakout box, various dongles and a hip flash topped off with Jack Daniels. We had to communicate with home base and our local equipment via modem and it seemed like each country had different frequencies for the mark/space tones. What a nightmare. Now it’s all wireless. The most I plug my iPad into is a microSD adapter to download my camera’s photos. Then it’s all wireless to back things up over the air.

          I’m surprised that these “modern” devices don’t come with a VGA port so you can plug them into ancient projectors.

  7. After viewing the pictures, it looks like they took a notebook computer and put the guts (memory, processor, drive, etc.) behind the display rather than the keyboard.

    When they positioned it for use, gravity took over and the thing did a back flip. Take your laptop in the normal viewing configuration and put the back of the display on the table and see what happens.

    To solve this problem, they came up with that design innovation that the MS pundits are all talking about…the kickstand!

    Have they ever had to use this on an airplane? Especially when the passenger seated in front of you does a full recline.

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