Apple boss knocks Microsoft's Surface tablet – without using it
Tim Cook calls it a confused product - but others love the 'sleek' device, if not its 'clumsy' software
AS MICROSOFT released its new tablet 'Surface' worldwide today, Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't hesitate to take a pot shot at the new iPad rival. During Apple's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, Cook told investors the Surface was a "fairly compromised, confusing product" – although he added that he hadn't actually used one yet.
He insisted that in making the iPad, Apple had made hard trade-offs and decided exactly what the product should be - implying that Microsoft had not. "I suppose you could design a car that flies and floats, but I don't think it would do all of those things very well," he said.
However, several technology critics have found kinder words to say. "This is one of the most exciting pieces of hardware I've ever used," says Mathew Honan at Wired. "It is extremely well-designed; meticulous even."
The backside kickstand is sturdy and tightly integrated, and the 3mm-thin 'Touch Cover' keyboard is "quite fantastic", says Honan, despite admitting that it took a few days for his fingers to get used to it.
The Touch Cover is the same idea as Apple's magnetically hinged iPad cover, but with key shapes on the inside so you can flip the cover open, flip out the kickstand and use it as a much lighter PC.
PC Pro's Tim Danton describes the Surface as a "staggeringly good device". And for those who want a closer experience to a traditional keyboard, there is a 'Type Cover' too. At 5.5mm thick, Microsoft says it's the thinnest moving-keys keyboard on earth. With this, Danton says, the Surface can "genuinely replace your laptop".
"In short,” he says, "we've seen very few Windows 8 tablets that would give Apple any cause for concern, but the Surface really should."
In the Wall Street Journal, Walter S Mossberg insists that the Surface "isn't a cheap iPad knockoff", it is a "unique tablet, made of a type of magnesium with a feeling of quality and care". He is less impressed with the software.
He describes Microsoft's 10,000 third-party apps as "tiny" compared with the 700,000 touch-operated apps available on the iPad. And there is more bad news: "The first edition of Surface uses a variant of Windows 8, called RT, that can't run the vast array of traditional programs many Windows users rely upon daily, like Google Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, Apple iTunes or even Microsoft's own Outlook.”
It's a "sleek tablet, but clumsy software", concludes David Pogue in The New York Times. "How ironic that what lets the Surface down is supposedly Microsoft's specialty: software.
"In time, maybe the Windows RT apps will come. Maybe the snags will get fixed. Maybe people will solve the superimposed puzzle of Windows RT and Windows 8. Until then, the Surface is a brilliantly conceived machine whose hardware will take your breath away - but whose software will take away your patience."