People need to separate the poor response to Windows 8 on a desktop and Windows 8 on a tablet or even a phone. I do not think this differentiation is fully appreciated.
I say this because at the Oakland airport, there was a large display in the Southwest terminal. Three Microsoft people were working this booth and they had about eight Surface tablets with the various keyboards. I could not get on the airport’s Wi-Fi anyway, so I took this as an opportunity to get my email and see what and how they were pitching the device.
I grabbed one with the flat Touch Cover. I had previously used a Surface with the more substantial Type Cover and thought that it was more than adequate as a keyboard. The Touch Cover keyboard was also surprisingly usable, although I think it would get on my nerves after a while because there is zero haptic feedback.
The demo was pretty lame-brained but still impressive. The demonstrator moved around the basic Windows 8 tiles, showing how easy it is to customize.
Something very impressive about the Surface is its oddly sharp display. This cannot be fully understood by the specs, which is why Microsoft is spending money on this real-life, show-and-tell. You really have to play with the machine to appreciate how nice it actually is. Nobody has ever accused me of being a huge Microsoft fanboy, but this unit is very slick and friendly.
More important was the reaction of people who played with the machine. Everyone enjoyed the moment. Microsoft reinforced the experience with a $20 coupon for Southwest airlines.
So, I boarded the plane and there was a family of three sitting to my right. They had two iPads. At some point in the conversation, I heard the mom say that her next tablet would be the Microsoft Surface. I think this was a direct result of the demonstration going on in the airport.
Microsoft has finally learned what it already knew years ago. The entire computer technology business needs face-to-face attention. When I got my first machine in 1977, I had to spend a lot of time at user groups and with people who knew how to operate them correctly. To this day, people will personally show you how to do things. Adobe sends teams of people to give hands-on instruction.
If Microsoft played its normal passive game, it would not sell nearly as many Surface machines. Its Xbox 360 would have surpassed the Sony PlayStation years earlier if it had the number of storefronts Apple has.
When I saw the first Xbox 360 at a Microsoft demo when it was released, I was immediately impressed because someone was showing me some of the features I would have taken forever to figure out. And I immediately knew Microsoft had a winner.
So kudos to Microsoft for setting up these events. If you see one, take advantage of the moment and grab some freebies.
By John C. Dvorak, PCMag