Speaking volumes about the potential shown by the Microsoft Surface, I was most certainly not the only Apple consumer to pay a visit to a Microsoft Store last Friday.
John Moltz, a person with whom I've discussed Windows 8 and the Surface at length, shared his thoughts immediately after visiting the Store:
While I was more impressed than I thought I was going to be and genuinely liked the Surface, I wasn’t bowled over. I considered buying one but, as I said earlier, asked myself this question: “Wouldn’t you rather have two iPad minis?”
Turns out I would.
When Moltz's article went up, I was still reflecting on what I'd seen earlier in the day. And his article ended up summarizing much of my immediate feelings toward the entire experience.
Although I didn't have quite as many jittery hardware problems, I tend to agree with his overall sentiments regarding the Surface and its retail presence.
In essence, much as I've written, the entire matter reeks of potential, but the execution is just rather questionable. A fact only made worse in light of Apple's well-entrenched dominance in the market.
Speaking from this specific perspective, Marco Arment also had a fascinating and well-read look at his Microsoft Store experience:
Apple’s products say, “You can’t do that because we think it would suck.” Microsoft’s products say, “We’ll let you try to do anything on anything if you really want to, even if it sucks.”
People who dislike Apple’s approach or whose requirements are incompatible with it will always exist in great numbers, and the Surface is for them. It’ll probably sell well, especially if Microsoft can expand their retail presence quickly.
But it’s not for me at all. Not even for testing, experimenting, or curiosity. It feels too much like using a Windows PC, which was exactly Microsoft’s intention, and it will appeal to people who want that. But that’s a world I fled 8 years ago with no intention of returning.
Marco's response to the Microsoft Store was (clearly) much more negative than mine. Whilst many have taken this as evidence of fanboyism or, conversely, of resounding failure on Microsoft's part, I tend to think Marco's experience is indicative of what a great many people would feel upon entering a Microsoft Store. It's not an indicator of resounding failure, nor is it of adherence to one brand over another, but a simple comparison between a renowned Apple retail experience and a painfully similar Microsoft one.
As much as I wish to give the Surface a trial alone and apart from the happenings of the wider market, the fact is that it is being introduced amidst an uproar of excitement swirling around a revamped Apple product-line.
The vast majority of people entering a Microsoft Store will, therefore, automatically draw competitive lines between Apple and Microsoft. And, in many respects, Microsoft does not yet have compelling answers to its Apple competition.
At the end of the day, it's going to be an utterly subjective experience for anyone visiting a Microsoft Store and dabbling with a Surface. For me, I happened to have a largely positive and pleasant experience, but left with some questions.
The concern for Microsoft should be that, for others leaving the store, those questions far outweigh the potential positives.