On the Surface of Things

December 19, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I just watched the keynote address of the Microsoft Surface and I must say the product looks interesting. Will I give up my iPad for one? Not by any stretch of the imagination. I noticed, you see, that the Surface — besides being presented to the world by a bevy of buffoons — runs Windows. That operating system is obviously a useful thing, but it doesn’t do anything I can’t do some other way and in a more intuitive, pleasing, satisfying way.

Is “bevy of buffoons” too harsh? Yes. But even Tim Cook, at Apple, has a more natural presentation style than Steve Balmer, who often looked like Peter Boyle (and not in a good way), repeatedly, repeatedly glancing askance at the monitor at the back of the room. And Sinofsky? Painful to watch — the strained hyperbolism, the clunky script, the awkward almost-crossing of his legs when he sat. Mike Angiulo did okay. He was reasonably enthusiastic and worked the room well. Panay, however, strikes me as a talented designer who is too enamored of the underlying technology. He wants so bad to be Jony Ive, but he ain’t, and his tone was “the technology, zero-point-seven-seven millimeters, is so super important, and you will yield to Microsoft’s patented ‘realism wavy image area’ that anyone who does not comprehend and rejoice in a prescribed manner will be hounded out of our secret society.” It’s like he was trying to bully us into liking the product for its technology. Jony Ive, besides being an obviously inspired designer, has a manner that says ‘ooh, this is so sexy. Don’t you love it? I love it?” And enticed by the muse of techno-satisfaction, I do love it.

The entire event felt rushed and awkward, derivative of Apple in so many ways but, while the oft-quoted aphorism reads “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” their imitation of the Apple presentation style felt forced and flat. As for the product? The market will have its say.


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