Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This Is Hard But... I Need To Apologize

by Sandwyrm

I've long been very critical, especially these last few months, of a certain company and it's CEO. Well, it's time to apologize. I was wrong about them. They're much smarter and more customer-focused than I thought they could be. After finally seeing a demonstration their newest product, I'm actually excited and am looking forward to it's impending release!

I've been a customer of theirs for over 20 years now, and it's been a rocky relationship. At times their products sucked, and at other times they were awesome. But they're always been frustratingly sloppy in their execution. Oftentimes, I and others have had to fix and tweak their products in order to have fun with them. Some of us even went off and wrote our own competing systems, we were so frustrated with them. Most of us just put up with them in order to enjoy ourselves.

Then, a few years ago, there was a management shakeup, and many of the founders left the company. The guy they left in charge was clearly focused, not on the company's products or the long-term health of the company itself, but on the next quarter's numbers to the exclusion of all else. I called him a buffoon here on the blog, and one of the worst CEOs in the world.

Well, I was wrong.

This company just showed me a product that has broken all of my expectations for what to expect from them. It represents a massive change from their traditional way of doing things; and an admission on their part that the old ways would only lead to stagnation and a long-term decline of their market share. They've obviously recognized and are addressing this problem in an intelligent way that I really didn't think they had in them. That takes guts.

Because I have to tell you. I was dismissive of this new product until I got to see it in action. Until I was able to see the love of the designers for what they were doing and the tiny details that they were determined to get right. I thought I was happy with the system I had chosen as an alternative to theirs, but this company has looked at that competing product, that they initially ignored as irrelevant, and figured out how to compete with it based on features and user expectations.

Kudos to them.

So, without further adieu, I want to apologize to that CEO for what I've said and written about him.

Steve Balmer, I'm sorry. I was wrong. You're a much better CEO than I gave you credit for.

Because your company's new tablet looks great and seems like it will address most of the problems that I have with Apple's iPad. Please don't screw up the execution (and the price), because for the first time in a long time, I'm excited about one of Microsoft's products.

Good job (so far)! Coming from an Apple fanboy, that's pretty high praise. :)


  1. I saw it coming, but I was still amused.

    Damn you. Lol.

  2. well, I knew you weren't playing a certain wargame this morning. You'd have told me if you got a copy of that.

  3. Lolz.

    And...holy crap!
    Purgy is ALIVE!

  4. Haha, I see what you did there. Nice.

  5. Microsoft sucks sh*t. Who bought their cell phone ?? Hurrr hurrr hurrr !!

  6. I lol'd. So, it's agreed, then? We all still want to punch Tom Kirby in the face as hard as possible? With a running start even, god willing?

    1. Meh.

      I'm not mad at him or GW. Just disappointed. I'd rather spend my energy creating an alternative.

  7. I remain skeptical on it until I've played with one. My experience with Windows 8 thus far leaves me feeling meh, but I think it is better suited for touch screens, so the fact that using it is highly unpleasant on a laptop shouldn't carry over at least. Current software offerings are worthless though, and unless sales of the software are good, I'm worried it will languish, since Windows 7 will be a much larger market and Windows 8 applications won't be backward compatible, whereas Windows 7 applications will be forward compatible (but only with the intel version of the software, and not touch optimized).

    I think the keyboard smart cover is a sweet idea, but we'll see how typing on it feels. There's already an iPad cover from Logitech for the iPad that does basically the same thing as the thicker one, so that wasn't as big of a draw. I can't stand the kickstand, I really hate when people build stuff like that into the hardware, as I wouldn't ever use one of these devices with out a case on it.

    That said, it could be a good product, I am just skeptical of anything Microsoft makes before I've played with it.

    1. Yeah, it could be the new Zune very easily. VERY easily. :)

      But step back for a second and realize what's different this go around. For the first time in it's 35-ish years, Microsoft is telling it's OEMs to eff-off and is building/selling the hardware for a Windows computer itself.

      That's AMAZING! It's a total break with their entire philosophy and traditions. It's an admission that Apple was right about hardware/software integration and that MS can't meaningfully compete in the tablet space (which is eating PC sales) without following and improving upon Apple's development model. I haven't heard for sure yet, but Google is supposedly throwing in the towel on the tablet OEMs and creating their own hardware too.

      Listen to Balmer in that video. He sounds like Steve Jobs!

      Whether the Surface succeeds or fails, this is a milestone in computing history. It would be like Apple giving up the hardware business and licensing it's software to OEMs. It would have been unthinkable back in Bill's day.

      But Balmer has seen nothing but failure developing new products the old way. So he's allowed MS to evolve. That's ballsy for a CEO and Balmer deserves credit for not just doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. It harkens back to the 180º turn that MS made in Bill's day when he suddenly realized that the Internet was important.

      Could Balmer have ridden the slow decline of MS into the ground and retired rich? Sure. But he isn't. He's actually trying to help the company survive and thrive. Kudos to him.

    2. Microsoft peddles crap and can't really hold a candle to Apple. Apple stock continues to climb while Microsoft stock continues to drop. Microsoft has some good software such as Word but their operating systems have always been pure shite and basically a poor copy of Apple's... you should watch the movie Pirates of the Silicon Valley... Bill Gates was aptly portrayed as a con man. I had an opportunity to work for them when I graduated from college back in the 80s and turned them down after having to deal with their shitty DOS.

    3. I dealt with their crappy DOS plenty. Wasted entire weekends editing config.sys and autoexec.bat files trying to get games to run with extended/expanded memory AND a CD-ROM when I should have been doing my homework.

      And yeah, I know all of the history you're talking about. Finally switched to Mac 4 years back and have been quite happy indeed ever since. Have an iPhone and an iPad too, so I'm quite the fanboy these days.

      But that's not my point. The point is that Microsoft is changing. It's doing stuff that used to be unthinkable in order to try and compete. Maybe it will be for naught, as is usually the case. But MS is a tenacious company and they usually get things, if not right, then at least usable by version 3.

      I look at their pad, and it has features I WANT. Pen input AND touch? Oh God please! I love my iPad, but you can't draw or write worth a crap on it because it doesn't have real pen input. I had to buy a $1000 graphics tablet-monitor for that, and I can't carry it around the house because of all the wires.

      Microsoft has actually focused on an issue that's lacking in the iPad. The ability to CREATE content instead of simply consuming it. The strategy is there, the hardware smarts are there (have been for years). Now they just have to deliver well enough to get Apple off of it's smug, self-satisfied arse and force them to add SD slots and Pen input to their products. :)

    4. BBF,

      While I have antipathy for windows (having to use an HP crap box all day at work before going home to my MBP) and am a diehard iOS fan (I've owned every iPad so far, although I'm told I should not continue that trend as its hurting the household budget, haha), I think its too early to say whether this product will suck. I've even used and hated Windows 8 and I'm not willing to go that far.


      I don't think Apple will ever add an SD card slot to the iPad, simply because they have a peripheral that allows you to plugin an SD card, and I don't see them thinking its a broadly enough used feature to justify taking that and changing the physical design of the device (adding a port and likely having to flatten an edge to accommodate. If anything, I think they're going to try for a thinner device with less space, thus rumors of replacing the dock connector with a smaller port.

      Where you have a point is pen input, and that's been a question of implementation, but digitizers are expensive, so I could see that hurting the bottom line of the new windows tablet or pushing the price upward.

      ...just did some googling, if what I read was right, only the Intel Surface will have the pen digitizer :( That definitely reduces my interest level, since its sure to be pricier, heavier, and have worse battery.

      Meanwhile, I'm waiting for this, not quite there yet, but a step in the right direction:

      And lets not get too cavalier about "not creating" it really depends on what you're doing. I've seen amazing music produced with an iPad, the iPad serving as a great mobile writing and documenting platform, a good way to process and render photos for photographers who need a mobile device with strong battery, etc. And even in drawing, there are people who have adopted the ipad as part of their workflow, but obviously a finer tip would be nice, I completely agree.

    5. The SD Adapter is too clumsy and awkward for regular use. Plus you can lose it, as it's not attached to the iPad most of the time.

      The iPad needs a built-in way to trade files with any computer easily without having to install Drop Box everywhere. This is less about functionality and more about design snobbishness on Apple's part. It wouldn't be 'pure'. An attitude which has always been their biggest failing. I know of students who bought an iPad for school, only to find that (camera aside) it's terrible for note-taking, and that they can't get files on and off the thing without emailing them. Which many professors aren't crazy about accommodating.

      That ten-one pen looks interesting. I'll probably give it a shot when it comes out. But this is what I'm comparing it to:

      It's not just about pressure-sensitivity, but about accuracy and speed. Adding pen functionality isn't terribly expensive or complicated. Windows tablets have had this capability for years, and I've made perfectly nice sketches on models that are 8-9 years old now. But Steve didn't appreciate the capability, so it wasn't added to any version of their pad, despite being a huge boon for artists. Plenty of whom use Macs.

      And yeah, I've seen nice artwork that's been done on an iPad. But it takes a LOT longer than it would if you had real pen input. Just as writing a long email or blog post requires a keyboard to get it done in a reasonable amount of time.

    6. And yeah, only the Intel surface will have pen input. But on the other hand it will also run Photoshop and Sketch Book Pro. That's still a net plus, as my Cintiq is a PITA to carry around with all of the various wires and power adapters.

      We'll see how they price these things.

    7. Ah I use Dropbox for school, I pair it with DocumentsToGo, all my notes and assignments are available on my work machine, on my PC or my macbook, etc. I basically just use the SD attachment to dump my camera into it.

      Adding a second digitizer is actually pretty expensive, thats why its only on the high end surface, and why wacoms are so fething expensive. I'm eagerly awaiting Apple adding the tech eventually. I have used a bluetooth keyboard with my ipad since launch so I've only typed on it the few times my batteries died when I wasn't paying attention.

      The reason windows tablets had pen input was they were resistive touchscreens, putting an accurate digitizer with pressure sensitivity into a tablet with a glass screen usually requires both a fairly expensive pen and the screen to have both, so its just an engineering problem. I expect it will make its way into the lower end product lines eventually, but Apple won't do it till they can avoid taking a hit on their margins.

  8. Sandwyrm, I don't understand how you think you can draw any conclusions without at least a month or two of testing the product yourself, physically?!! I mean, it's inconceivable that someone could be intelligent enough, and experienced enough with this kind of thing, that they can draw reasonable conclusions from known material and be able to formulate pre-emptive and conditional conclusions from that...


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