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October 24, 2012

Early Reviews Land for Microsoft Surface, Prove Discouraging

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

When a new device looks to hit the market, its common practice for several of them to be sent out to bloggers and magazine writers to review and try to build up some early buzz around the product. But in the case of the Microsoft (News - Alert) Surface, which recently went the rounds with several writers, the early word is coming back, and not coming back well at all for Microsoft.

Perhaps the biggest flood of scorn for the device came from The Verge's Joshua Topolsky, who put forth a nightmarish litany of failure, frustration and woe about the device, saying "Nearly every app I tried crashed completely at least once while I was testing the tablet, third and first-party." and "This product is supposed to represent the future of Windows and Microsoft, so why did I feel so frustrated so often while using it?" About the only high point came when Topolsky described the tiled interface, finding it "really, really cool" and finding himself "legitimately delighted" using it.

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That's not where the bad reviews stopped, though, so much as where they began. Gizmodo's Sam Biddle declared the Surface tablet "...worth your attention, (it's) not worth your paycheck..." and "...the worst of both worlds..." FWD's Matt Buchanan called the Surface "...just another tablet. And not one you should buy."

Thankfully, the news wasn't all bad. The New York Times' David Pogue provided some mixed praise, saying "On the hardware front, Microsoft has succeeded brilliantly." but citing "little inconsistencies and bafflements" on every other front.

Indeed, the word of a few reviewers likely won't completely sink the Surface, but it's worth remembering that, with the exception of the Xbox line, Microsoft is essentially a software company. Microsoft's involvement in hardware in minimal, and this is the first generation product from a company that's never done it before. If Apple (News - Alert) suddenly decided to start offering sandwiches at Apple Stores, and they tasted lousy, it would be the same concept. Granted, this isn't exactly a field where trial and error is a welcome development strategy--Microsoft doesn't need a big pile of unsold Surface tablets--but still, it's going to take some time for Microsoft to truly get into the field.

Maybe some patches will do the job; they would likely help keep the apps from crashing, which, if it happens as often to everyone else as it did to Topolsky, would spell doom for the platform. There are certainly reasons to keep the Surface front and center--even those with complaints in several cases had praise for the device on some fronts--but buying one in the early stages might not be the way to go after all. Microsoft's ability to destabilize the tablet market may well come into play in future developments, but the Surface may not be the game-changer some had foreseen.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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