Microsoft Smothers Nokia Buzz with Surface 2 Event

| Editorial

Just when we thought Microsoft was beginning to get it, to understand its plight in the world of mobility, the company schedules an event in New York on September 23 to launch the Surface 2 tablet. It's almost like doubling up on failure.

When Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring Nokia and that Steve Ballmer would be stepping down in a year, many observers became optimistic that Microsoft was beginning to understand the terrible mess they're in.

Namely, Microsoft's business model and its Windows OS is part of a dying species, and the company had, previously, neither built a path to the future nor poised itself for the next revolution. However, rather than making a clean jump into mobility, Microsoft continued to stubbornly remain orthogonal to the currents of modern technology. First, they mistakenly branded their Windows Phone OS with the term "Windows" -- that reminds customers of what they don't want. Then the company went on to build a tablet that really does use Windows. And it failed.

However, there may be a new way out. By acquiring Nokia's hardware expertise, its great relationships with carriers, its patents, and its expertise in mobility, there were outward signs that Microsoft could, with a new CEO, get on board with 21st century thinking and products. Perhaps Microsoft could reposition and poise itself anew for the future.

So what does Microsoft do next? It schedules an event in New York on September 23 to reveal the second phase of its tablet disaster, the Surface 2. What's the fuss about? Apparently an improved kickstand and a new Intel Haswell processor for better battery life.

This is like a TV maker staging a special event to announce that they've improved their 3-D glasses and that the headaches aren't as severe -- while other makers have moved on to 4K.

When Apple has modest changes to make in a product that don't bear a special event, it just slipstreams the changes. In short order, the Apple community finds out about the changes and the story is told. There is no big fuss, Apple's current working message isn't undermined, and that's the intended result.

However, for Microsoft to schedule an event like this so soon after announcing the Nokia acquisition sends a very bad message. It says that Microsoft is doubling up on a previous failure. It telegraphs the notion that Microsoft doesn't understand its plight, hasn't learned anything new, and is carrying on, business as usual. It's another press of the oops key.


Oops key via Shutterstock.

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They need to strip Windows out of mobility and rebrand their mobile OS to something like XOS. X - no windows, no fat, no anchor and no Steve.

Lee Dronick

Maybe it is the rumored cheaper, brown colored Surface.


This is not as surprising as it seems at first glance. Ballmer’s management model is for each project, each group, to compete with each other in some kind of bizarre darwinian struggle to be #1. Last week the Windows Phone team was in the press. It makes sense that the Surface team would try to grab the spotlight rather than sitting back and letting MS bask in the glow of a good decision. They are fighting for survival, not what’s best for MS.

Microsoft continued to stubbornly remain orthogonal to the currents of modern technology.

Orthogonal? What an interesting way to use that word.



Only Microsoft. How do you save a product that no one wants? Go from one limited viewing angle to two! (Some may recall I said the single kickstand viewing angle would be a problem. I say similarly now that two viewing angles are still way too limited. Jony Ive could have made a kickstand work at any angle, guaranteed, and he and Apple would have insisted on it. Somehow my iMac has infinite viewing angle adjustment and never budges. Just sayin.)

What else do they do? Improve on crappy battery life by making it less crappy! By focusing on spec improvements while ignoring the fundamental flawed concepts of Surface, of which one of the most glaring is the RT/Pro confusion, followed by many others (limited apps being another big one).

Its like saying that The Hindenburg was a fine design, it just needed more fire extinguishers.

Let’s just hope round two of marketing is better than round one, which may have been even worse than when Jerry met Bill in a show store.


This is like a TV maker staging a special event to announce that they’ve improved their 3-D glasses and that the headaches aren’t as severe—while other makers have moved on to 4K.

Hilarious analogy, John. It would be hysterical, but for the fact that this is what one of humanity’s erstwhile major tech players are currently doing. Effectively, MS are hosting an event to announce what’s tantamount to a spec tweak on a dead product. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, and it’s more like a minor change on a mediocre product, but one cannot help but conjure the image of a mortician publicly announcing that he’s changed the shirt and tie on a corpse. Unless he’s made him ‘undead’, there’s no story here.

At the same time, I concur with geoduck that this is not surprising, not only for the reason he’s cited, but if for no other, than that MS’s current leadership has not changed, and no doubt, remains as committed as ever to its current flight plan. I’ve argued before that corporations, like all human entities, principles and laws aside, are driven by culture, which has a momentum that can overwhelm and move all the individuals under its sway. It can be a practically unstoppable force, at least in the short run. This is especially true when the leadership of an entity remains, as Ballmer’s recent comments suggest, committed to specific pathways.

Two things will have to happen, in my view, in order for the Surface to go the way of the Zune: 1) leadership will have to not simply change, but be strong enough to withstand the onslaught of MS’s corporate culture and orchestrate a course change; 2) the failure of the Surface will have to incontrovertible, even to its most ardent champions.

The former is uncertain, the latter is ultimately subjective and in the eye of the beholder, ergo Surface 2.


skipaq said: “They need to strip Windows out of mobility and rebrand their mobile OS to something like XOS.”

May I humbly submit my suggestion: SOS - as in HELP!!  wink


I agree, trying to make noise about the Surface, especially with the fairly modest improvements you mention,  seems a bit weird. The Surface Pro was simply a bad idea, and improved battery life won’t change that. 
However, this is Microsoft we’re talking about, and they rarely give up quickly. Whoever gets the job of CEO should make killing the Surface his or her first order of business. Then, Windows RT should get renamed to something like Mobile OS, and they should put the Start Menu back in Windows and basically roll everything back to Windows 7. Then they should unify their phone and tablet operating systems, and release a big Lumia and call it a tablet. Hey maybe they should give me the job.

John Martellaro

graxspoo:  Nice.  I like your list.

Tonio Loewald

You seem to be the only one who thinks buying Nokia was a good idea. graxspoo — microsoft has already put back to start menu in windows 8.1.

I think the term you want in the opening paragraph is doubling down (betting double on the same thing that just lost) vs. doubling up (bending over in pain or laughter).

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