Surface is finally going to be what they always promised it would be

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We all know that Alan Kay quote “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”. Even though Microsoft said that kind of thinking is one of the reasons they decided to make their own computers (and Google doing the same with their Pixel hardware), only Apple truly has a vertically integrated and optimized “stack”. Surface computers are excellent but lets be honest, Windows and Surface are separate groups and they are not fully designed together like the iPhone is, for example. But with Panos now in charge of Windows, we are actually going to start to see this with Surface computers in the coming years. This is exciting! I’ve always thought that Surface hardware is too good for Windows. I have a black Surface Laptop 2 and it’s honestly stunning, I think it’s the best looking computer ever made, but when you turn it on all of that polish and quality isn’t there, because Windows is a mess compared to Surface hardware. It’s depressing… Let’s hope Panos can really influence Windows development and improve it. They basically just had a 2 billion dollar quarter so he must be doing something right. If I’m wrong or missing something please chime in. I think this is one of the best and most exciting things to happen in the PC space for a while.

Comments (14)

14 responses to “Surface is finally going to be what they always promised it would be”

  1. illuminated

    Windows is a mess? Which part?

    • crp0908

      In reply to illuminated:
      1. WaaS is disruptive and painful for both users and IT departments. It is a hamster wheel that never ends since 'Windows 10 is the last version of Windows.' Really? Can Windows never get any better than this??
      2. Monthly Updates to Windows seem to break something different every month. They have been more unreliable right now than ever before.
      3. Settings and Control Panel are a confusing and split interface that have been annoying us since Windows 8 with no signs of ever consolidating.


      I'm sure there are many more.

      • illuminated

        In reply to crp0908:
        1. From consumer perspective updates are fine and since I am not in IT I can only ask "what hamster wheel" :) IT is blocking updates so they are not that frequent and when they arrive they rarely break anything,
        2. Not my experience. Maybe my usage is very different or our IT department is just spectacular.
        3. That is annoying but I noticed the old interfaces slowly being replaced by the new ones. I also think that this is one of zero payback jobs. Lots of changes but nobody really cares. Just look at your comment "no signs of ever consolidating". Nobody sees the work that was put into settings UI.

        I would also add that for consumer surface these points are irrelevant. How many times one has to go to the old-style control panel ? Sometimes I do that on my desktop but on surface that happened like never.


        Updates on surface are not a problem. Never had one. Maybe I am just lucky.



    • jchampeau

      In reply to illuminated:

      Don't forget screen scaling and the overall issue of using older apps on high-DPI screens.

  2. jimchamplin

    I'm not sure Microsoft can actually integrate Windows and Surface the way Apple does macOS.


    Windows must retain two important properties: 1) Compatibility. It must be able to run the software and drivers that people need to support the gargantuan library of applications and vast array of peripherals. 2) Openness. Architectural changes to Windows to achieve that level of integration would impact partners who do NOT have access to Microsoft's custom hardware.


    macOS doesn't have to maintain legacy compatibility because Apple doesn't care about that. It's why Macs get sundowned at some point and are no longer officially supported with new versions of macOS. To push the state of the art of the platform forward, support for hardware that can't run it must be dropped. And importantly, Apple also has no partners that need an open system to run on their systems. This means that macOS is theirs to develop, without regard for how it will affect a partner's business.


    Microsoft could of course spin off a "Windows: Surface Edition" if they wanted, and maintain it separately, but that would be pretty resource intensive.

  3. rob_segal

    Many of the issues Surface has is not related to Windows itself. No Thunderbolt 3 is not Windows. Lack of popularity for Surface Book and Surface Laptop has nothing to do with Windows. Designing Windows and Surface together doesn't the problems faced by either product. Having a clear vision for Windows and having a clear vision for Surface could go a long way to improve the brands, but that doesn't have to be the same person.

  4. crp0908

    I will be voted down for this, but I really don't understand the fascination and enthusiasm for Surface products. Can someone please explain it to me? Maybe it's solely because of the 3:2 aspect ratio. I have access to and have used every Surface Pro model from Surface Pro 3 - 7. I don't understand why they have such an enthusiastic fan base when there are clones available from other manufacturers. Surface Go seems like the only reasonably priced Surface model that is still compelling. But we have been disappointed with Go's performance and battery life. It seems like each Surface model has a lot of room for improvement.


    For example, just this past weekend, a VIP's Surface Pro 7 got an automatic driver update. After she rebooted, her external monitors stopped working. We were tied up for awhile because we had to pinpoint the root cause and then revert her back to the old video driver and disable updates so that the new driver doesn't get pushed down again. We have a small niche of Surface users but they cause a lot of our problems. We really don't have these kinds of problems with devices made by other manufacturers.


    When I look for a preferred device, I look for a device that is upgradeable, serviceable, powerful, and reasonably priced. Most Surfaces aren't upgradeable or serviceable and the powerful ones aren't reasonably priced. I don't buy a device simply because it looks pretty or is 'sleek' or looks like a MacBook.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to crp0908:

      Devices that are upgradeable, serviceable, and reasonably-priced are a whole different category than premium ultrabook and 2-in-1 machines like Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, Dell XPS, HP Dragonfly, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, etc., etc. This premium category caters to people who want a sexy device and are less concerned with the TCO it represents. I've owned many, many Dell laptops and finally bit the bullet a couple weeks ago and bought myself a Surface Laptop when Best Buy had them for $300 off. Spec-wise it's nothing special. And I hate the fact that it only has one USB-C port, and that it isn't Thunderbolt 3, but damn, the thing is sexy. It just feels premium in every way.


      To answer your question directly: it's hard to explain because the fascination with Surface products has nothing to do with logic and reason and everything to do with the feeling you get when you pull the slim, beautiful, all-metal device with a perfect hinge out of your bag and start using it.


      Regarding aspect ratio, after using this Surface Laptop for a couple weeks, I actually think 16:10 is ideal vs. this device's 3:2. I often have apps snapped side-by-side and, when I do, I would gladly give up some top-to-bottom real estate for some extra side-to-side room.

    • taswinfan

      In reply to crp0908:

      The problems you mentioned with surface have happened to me at times regardless of hardware. Whether its Toshiba or HP or Lenovo. But when you hold a surface in your hand... maybe its not for everyone, but it just felt so nice to me. I loved it from the moment I saw and held one. And honestly feel that I have less (not 0) problems than other (non homemade) computers. I wont buy a different brand as long as I can buy a Surface.


      TL;DR

      I dunno why. I just like them.

  5. ngc224

    Hopefully, we will see Microsoft’s new modern os next week (and it won’t be “Windows”).

  6. BigM72

    I think the meaningful integration people want that Apple had in Macs won’t come through this reorg. The parts of Windows that would need to change for the reliability we all want: driver model, file system, security model etc etc all sit with the Azure and AI group.


    This will just mean that Windows feature releases and Surface product releases like WCOS for Surface Hub 2X, like Windows 10X are more sync’d up. It just means stuff like Your Phone app on windows and Android more closely tied together.

    • taswinfan

      In reply to BigM72:

      I think it could definitely affect design and polish of Widnows. True apple style connection- maybe not, as you say- though you did refer to some improvements that would help such as improvements with Your Phone. But the look and feel of the os (UI etc) could definitely benefit from this reorg

  7. waethorn

    Don't set your expectations so high. When people saw Windows Phone 7, everyone (read: bloggers that primarily use Macs) thought it was so cool-looking that they figured Windows on the desktop should look and work the same way. Look how that turned out.


    I'm thinking that Microsoft actually prefers Surface to be what it is right now: limited designs that they can license to OEM's without becoming a full product line-up that covers conventional PC designs.

  8. willr

    Yes but it should have been this way from the start. Better late than never I guess! It will indeed take some time before we start to see some real Apple-style vertical integration in the Surface line. It's good news though, I really like the Surface devices

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