5 Years Later: How Microsoft Originally Marketed Surface Pro

Posted on February 11, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 32 Comments

While reviewing my archives about the original Surface Pro, I came across some interesting marketing materials. Key among them are two videos, which I’ve posted to YouTube. Each is an interesting peek at Microsoft’s earliest Surface Pro marketing efforts.

The Vibe

“The Vibe” is a confusing follow-up to a confusing commercial that Microsoft aired for the original Surface device, now called Surface RT. The theme then, as with “The Vibe,” is the clicking sound that the Type and Touch Covers made when connected to Surface. You were instructed to “click in at a Microsoft Store” to learn more.

And my God, is this nonsense. It features the same dancing actor that we saw in the Surface RT commercial, but he’s apparently graduated from the Glee-like community college he attended previously and now has a job. Get it? Surface Pro! This time, the emphasis is on the pen, which was unique to Surface Pro, so the clicking isn’t as pronounced. I can only assume this commercial made everyone as uncomfortable as it made me.

Welcome to Surface Windows 8 Pro

This more traditional product overview highlights the new and unique features in Microsoft’s first “real” PC. You had a choice of two “ultra-thin, revolutionary keyboards that double as covers. You could switch to the pen—not yet called Surface Pen. It ran “real” Windows apps—e.g. “the programs you use everyday,” unlike Surface RT—or “great apps from the Windows Store.”

Surface Pro came in 64 GB and 128 GB variants, provided a USB 3.0 port and a microSD card slot for expansion, and it had a “dual-purpose charger” that could charge the device and your phone at the same time. Obviously, they showed a Windows phone, because that’s what everyone used back then. Surface Pro had a 1080p display and could display externally via miniDisplayPort.

It was, in Microsoft’s words, “new and exciting” and “trusted and familiar.” Using this device, you could “click-in and do more.”


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Comments (34)

34 responses to “5 Years Later: How Microsoft Originally Marketed Surface Pro”

  1. MikeGalos

    And those basic concepts, now refined over five years, have proven themselves. Hence the vast number of copy-cat device even including Apple who is desperately trying to turn iPad Pro into Surface Pro and has now said they won't really get their first real competitor out until 2019.

  2. summersk59

    My wife uses one of these at her job as a Nurse-Clinician at our local hospital. All teams where given Surface Pro's last year along with docking stations, Windows 8 pro Enterprise. At first she really disliked it, mainly due to the unexpected shutdowns and wonky dedicated programs the hospital have adopted. She still hates it, won't wake from sleep, or won't start after pressing the power button. Drops wireless connections when she's moving around from room to room. (this can also be wireless issues outside of being a MS issue). I asked her if the IT department has looked into firmware upgrades, fixes, her response, what IT department? All the Surface Pro's are locked down, end users are unable to do anything in regards to updates. they're told to call IT and wait for a response, sometimes a few days later. I had to go to Microsoft's defense explaining there's more demons than just MS...lol

  3. navarac

    Still using a Surface Pro 3 that came with Windows 8 (now with Windows 10 rs4 Insider Previews). Still going strong. Still pristine. Still great. It's not my daily driver but I do use it consistently during the week.

  4. dallasnorth40

    I kinda liked those commercials. Sorry.

  5. wocowboy

    I have never understood how anyone could think that Surfaces are useful in any way. The things are completely unusable as a laptop on your lap because of the flimsy keyboard/kickstand design, they must be placed on a hard, flat surface, so why not just buy a regular laptop or a reversible/convertible laptop/tablet thing and be done with it? They simply do not make any sense in a usability case.

    • barrywohl

      In reply to wocowboy: That was my experience. I bought a Surface Pro 3 and upgraded to the Surface Pro 4 keyboard but I still didn't like it as a laptop. I still use the thing every day, but docked, with a full size keyboard and monitor. I've chosen a Lenovo X1 Yoga Gen 2 to replace my Surface Pro 3 for laptop functions, including sitting in bed and roaming from patient room to patient room in my medical office.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to wocowboy:

      You've never understood how anyone could find a Surface useful?

      There is nothing flimsy about a Surface Pro kickstand.

      I think you need to get out more.

      • wocowboy

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        The kickstand itself is not flimsy, but the whole Surface is flimsy and unstable when used on your LAP and likely to fall off your lap if you move your legs, that was my point. Using a Surface on your lap requires a delicate balance and placement of flexible keyboard, the body of the device, and kickstand that must be contained within the length of your thigh. The distance between the front edge of the keyboard and the kickstand is far too long for most people which causes this instability to be even worse. With a normal laptop, all you have to worry about is the depth of the keyboard and that distance is significantly shorter than the keyboard-to-kickstand distance of the Surface, plus the keyboard being a part of the machine and not a flexible thing that moves every time you press a "key" makes a laptop a stable device when used on your lap. I get out plenty and find the Surface unusable as a "laptop". It is made to be used on a hard surface like a tabletop, not on a human being's lap.

  6. jimchamplin

    That 16:9 though...


  7. pesos

    Awww cmon Paul, don't be such a curmudgeon :-) That was a great ad!

  8. AlexKven

    And remember the product was actually first called "Surface Windows 8 Pro," not "Surface Pro."

  9. MacLiam

    I was interested when they were announced, but I didn't buy one when they were advertising them because they seemed too expensive. I did buy one later when they got cheap because the company had to remainder some huge number of them that hadn't moved. I still have it. It still works fine. A little clunky, screen kind of small, not as fast as the new ones or with as much storage, but it's a clear vision of an interesting new option for mobile computing. I have bought a lot of Surfaces since for myself and family members.

  10. hrlngrv

    Nothing sells new tech devices better than angry dancing school girls.

    The only good ad I remember for Surface devices was the one with the little girl looking over the back of her airplane seat at a businesswoman using her Surface Pro. I believe there was another scene in the ad highlighting the pen.

    But credit where due: MSFT's initial ads for any new product have stunk since the Start Me Up ads for Windows 95: remember the Seriously ads for the original Windows Phone 7 handsets which blatantly and bone-headedly stated Windows phones were for people who wanted to use smartphones as little as possible. As with all things microcomputer, Xerox did it first (Brother Thomas ads from the late 1970s and early 1980s), Apple did it best, and even IBM's OS/2-using nuns were better than most MSFT ads.

  11. Bats

    This proved how a game changer the Apple iPad was. Let's get real, without the iPad, there would be no Surface. Perhaps it can also be argued that without the Samsung Note (powered by Android) , there would have been no Surface either, because of that pen. The only thing Microsoft contributed to this form of technology was the detachable keyboard. That was cool! Like I have said many times before, when the iPad (and Android tablets) came out, there seemed to have been a demand for a keyboard. It seemed that the onscreen keyboard wasn't good enough. Kudos to Microsoft to actually INNOVATE something that actually made sense. A keyboard that was detachable AND a screen protector at the same time....that was good.

    WHY Surface has struggled and has seen so little success is beyond me.

    Surface RT bombed. Surface Pro 1, bombed. Surface Pro 2, bombed. These models were EXPENSIVE and FLAT OUT no good. Surface Pro 3, from what I have read was a huge improvement, BUT was a commercial failure. LOL...Microsoft's reason for it's inability to sell their stock, reminds me Lululemon's "Sale Section" on their website, "We Made Too Much." (LOL).

    As for Surface Pro 4, according to Microsoft, it was a commercial success.....? That's what they kept saying right? Of course people like Paul, Brad, and the rest of the Microsoft bloggers had to go with that info and run with it, but .... has it really been successful? The latest bad news about the product has me wondering, what happened to it? I almost bought it, until I saw the really elegant Ash grey/gold HP Spectre X2 and bought that instead. Is it because of the looks? Because I've always said, it's a very "blah" looking device. OR.....could it really just be Windows? If you ask me, I thinks it "All of the Above" and most importantly, the price.

    It's funny how Windows fans just don't get it. They just don't. This is not to make fun of Paul again (for being wrong), but remember all those comments he made? (I paraphrase) "Oh.....The Surface is going to convert Mac people over to the Windows side, because the PC has better technology and it's touch screen,.... and creative artists are better off the 'touch screen' and the "dial" , and the pen.....blah, blah, blah, etc... etc...." I have said this then, and I'll say it agin, people who seriously use Macs have invested an enormous amount of money into that whole Apple/Mac ecosystem. These Apple "creatives" will not turn their back on their Aperture, Final Cut Pro, or Garage Band or whatever....! Really, it just makes no sense for them to spend a whole bunch of money to switch to Microsoft branded hardware.

    All in all, I think it's going to be very interesting to see where the future of Surface is headed. Like I said, the only real innovation Microsoft came out with was that keyboard. I am not giving them anything else, because we were heading in the direction of better battery life, higher resolution screens, etc..... ANYWAY. The keyboard was a great idea, because prior to the Surface release I saw a lot of empty space in the shelf area of bluetooth keyboards for the iPad. This tells me that there was demand for that kind of keyboard kudos for Microsoft for inventing one that does not require a bluetooth connection.

    If Surface continues to struggle, then changes probably need to be made at the higher level. That's starts with Panos Panay.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Bats:

      I don't think there's any evidence that any tablet was a "game changer". This April it will be 8 long years since the iPad was introduced and it's clear that Jobs' vision of tablets replacing PCs (or Macs) isn't going to happen. Consider how much faster smartphones took over the feature phone market after the iPhone was introduced.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Bats: You do know that MS supported Pen and Tablet computing in 2005. XP Tablet edition. That's 5 years before the first iPad (2010) and XP Tablet Edition was Windows, not a phone OS. I had Pocket PCs with styluses in 2000, and Pocket PC Phone Edition in 2003. That's 8 years before the Note (2011) The hardware that supported these OSs was clunky, but pretty forward thinking for the time.
      MS was ahead of it's time with the concepts. The hardware and technology just wasn't there to make it compelling. MS was the leader here, it just took the bruises early on.

      • Cosmocronos

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Actually the support of the pen came in 2002 with XP Tablet; the OS also had " ink anywhere" that was regrettably removed in the following OS releases.

        And talking about being ahead of time Newton had pen support too in 1993.

  12. Angela_WWW

    I still use my Surface Pro 1 as my main home computer. The Power keyboard packed up the other day so I am back to the normal keyboard. The biggest problem is that it won’t turn on at the first attempt ever. It takes me at least two minutes of holding down buttons. This is whether it is off or in sleep.

    i will replace it eventually but it is too useful yet.

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