Microsoft finally “Surface”s a tablet

The Big announcement was yesterday. Microsoft is jumping into the tablet game. Everyone has a take on this move, but there are too many unanswered questions to really be concise on an opinion.

Microsoft decided to pull an Apple or Google and do a special, red carpet, invite only reveal yesterday. The item, which was speculated on for over a week, was the new Surface Tablet offerings. The announcement itself is and is not a big deal. Anyone who looks closely at the way the tablet/smartphone ecosystem is could have seen this coming. Microsoft has had an issue with getting Windows Phone out there, even though it is a good OS. They have certain pledges from their normal PC distribution chain, but will any of those actually come out, and if so when? Microsoft had to make this move, they had to pull an Apple or Google and put out their own device.They made some mistakes with the reveal though. Then there are all the questions about how much success will it have?

Microsoft’s special announcement system, while generating buzz, had some really poor timing. First off, there was WWDC last week where Apple made its announcements and Buzz. Last Monday everything was Apple, especially the new MacBook. Yes, pushing the announcement to this week avoided that, but there was other news going on. The coverage of the Surface has not matched the frenzy generate by any Apple announcement. Microsoft could have done this announcement last week on Tuesday and stolen the show. Last week was Microsoft’s TechEd, and that could have been a huge place to reveal the Surface. First you have all the IT pros and Developers there, plus you can invite in all the press. Having the IT Pros and Devs there, along with having the Surface on display to be played with could have generated a much larger amount of publicity than just having the press there. The IT folks and Devs are usually your first adopters, and the ones who will be trusted to make knowledgeable recommendations that are followed.

Issue number two has been touched on by a number of well known tech writers. They had nothing as far as apps and the app store. Not completely true as Office will come preloaded and activated on the Windows RT Surface. The lack of other apps initially for the RT version could hurt it. The real interesting item is the full Windows 8 version on an Ivy Bridge core i5 processor.

The biggest reason the x64 version of the Surface is so interesting is the Application possibilities. Think about it, most machines out there are x64 or amd64 processors in the PC world. As long as the x64 Surface can run PC software, and I see no technical reason it should not be able to, you are talking a true laptop replacement. Think of it, being able to play WoW, Diablo, Civilization or any other PC game on a lightweight tablet. Then there are all the productivity, media and other software out there. The only limit is your resources and storage, and that only should affect the amount of items one can install.

If Microsoft can put a price point not at an Ultrabook price for the x64 Surface, but below the iPad pricing, Microsoft could do the job that Android has not been able to, and kill the iPad. Windows 8 I did get to see on tablets, and it is slick and very friendly for the tablet environment. What Microsoft needs to make sure not to do is price its own device out of the running, which on an ARM processor is not possible. the ARM environment is pretty locked down, unless something revolutionary comes along that is a must have. The x64 tablets are where Microsoft can make that must have. The ball is in their court, and time will tell if this was a revolutionary announcement or the announcement of the beginning of the end of Microsoft.

TechEd Wrapup

After spending a week at TechEd there are thoughts and opinions. I had no idea what to expect, outside of the chance to learn and do some networking. What I found was that, more and less.


TechEd is supposed to be the premier Microsoft Tech conference. The idea is to cram information into 4 days, to show off upcoming technologies, and to allow direct access to the people who know the technologies the best. I was hoping to be able to say it was all that, but the reality is that TechEd does fall short of those ideas in a number of ways. Do not get me wrong, TechEd is worth going to, but be aware of expecting too much.

Companies always have an agenda, and Microsoft is no different. TechEd at times seemed like a huge propaganda machine, even in the sessions and seminars. The comments about Windows 8 and how speakers got special permission to use it in their seminars got old. The fact is that while they had a full keynote on Windows 8, the never showed integration into a corporate domain, how it works hand in hand with Server 2012, nor why it belongs in the corporate environment. Here you have the IT folks, the ones who can help push your product, if they like it, and you are not giving them what they need. It was nice to see some beta app from SAP but, that is not the way to present to the people who want to know how difficult will the migration process be.

Lets move to the crux of what TechEd is about, learning. The seminars/sessions overall were rather informative, if not a bit short. 75 minutes per session is not a lot of time to cover the topics in much detail. Things get skipped over, glanced at or just muddled. This was most evident in the Exam Cram sessions where there really wasn’t much information given out except for what would be the opening of any study guide for those exams. I felt bad for the MCTs who really were not given a chance to shine and really prepare the people at the seminar in any meaningful way.

The other sessions I went to gave information in a more condensed form most of the time, and were interesting overall. Still they felt a bit rushed by the end as the speakers wanted to talk and interact more, would find themselves doing that and have to squish things together at the end. Mind you these speakers (Paula, Mark and Mark) were amazing, knew their stuff and were really teaching and showing us how to do what they were talking about. The amount of information I got was amazing, but it gets so condensed that one barely has time to process it before the next item on the agenda gets hit. I’m lucky if I can remember 10% of what I was shown. Luckily most of the session I went to are up in video format on the TechEd website (which really only works on 32Bit IE) so I can go back to them.

The networking part of TechEd was the best. Between meeting people in sessions, to the after hours shindigs that were going on, you had plenty of chances and opportunities to make new connections and friends.

TechEd is a great idea, and is worth going to. Microsoft has to decide though what they really want it to be about. With the attendance being 30% Devs and 70% IT Pros, the TechExpo area (vendors) was geared more to the Devs. The hard push on cloud this and cloud that was deplorable. The amount of information one could find and learn was amazing, and super condensed. the fact that Microsoft could have handed out Win8 Tablets to all of us for note taking and recording sessions, yet didn’t, was a disappointment. You have the people that drive the IT decisions there. Throw us a bone.

TechEd Day 4

The end is neigh. TechEd is finishing up. So what was Day 4 like?

To be honest Day 4 was the most surreal experience. Mostly because I was walking around with a ton more stuff on my back, as I was leaving that evening and had to check out of the hotel. Also I crammed everything into my TechEd backpack that I could. Good quality to be able to handle what I shoved in it.

The sessions for this day were on Wireless Security, and Windows Troubleshooting. The wireless security seminar was pretty basic, as they really went over the best practices and how to set up a Radius server, PKI infrastructure, and the rest of what is in any Microsoft networking and Infrastructure course. Pretty basic stuff that was made less interesting by a speaker who didn’t have much personality on stage by himself. I had seen him with a partner the day before with the pentest seminar, so it made things a bit more disappointing.

The next step in my day was all the giveaways. I can understand the need to have the winner present. This doesn’t work when all the drawings wind up on top of each other. Rather poor planning on their part.

I finished up the day going to Mark Russinovich’s Case of the Unexplained: Windows Troubleshooting. First late me say that Mark has rock star status at TechEd. His seminars are always filled, and this one was over packed early so he started early. Second, this one has such real world application to it. The fact that these are real world problems and solutions using the Sysinternal suite of products, is fascinating. The idea that it doesn’t teach you a series of procedures to troubleshoot, but instead how to use the tools to troubleshoot is even better.

The whole show closed up by 4 pm outside of the bag area and the testing area. A low cost shuttle was available to take me to the airport, compared to spending $50 on a cab. Over the weekend I’ll post up a summary and go over some final things from TechEd