Tag Archives: Microsoft

My Short Affair with Microsoft Surface Pro and the Retail User Experience

I couldn’t resist picking up one of those Surface Pro’s when they went on sale a few weeks back for $499. It is such a novel and interesting little device. A complete and powerful computer all neatly packed into a little tablet with a gorgeous 10.6 in. 1920 x 1080 hd touch screen. And of course I needed the accompanying Type 2 cover and keyboard.

I really wanted to love the Surface Pro but in the end I returned it to the Microsoft Store.

After two weeks I learned I couldn’t really find a way for it to work for me in a productive way. It still remained interesting, but it just felt like a device sitting next to me in the den while I used my recently rehabilitated 5 year old Macbook Pro.

Windows 8.1 was actually quite nice to use. After installing Classicshell.net I had a complete Windows 7 desktop environment as well as Microsoft’s device oriented Modern UI. The touch interface was nice in modern UI and I’ve caught myself smudging the Macbook’s glass swiping at it a time or two :). The Windows 8 snapping applications thing was pretty cool too. Not that you can’t do that in any windowing operating system just without the swipe and snap.

I did install Classicshell.net right after the Windows 8.1 updates which gave me the best of both worlds. A full Windows 7 desktop environment as well as Microsoft’s device oriented Modern UI. And I can completely see how for the mobile professional the Surface Pro could represent a solution that would let you have a complete professional computing environment both at the office, at the home office, and on the go.

But…it’s just not usable as a laptop and there’s the rub.

As much as I wanted to cherish this enticing device I could not be productive with it the way I compute most of the time. The kickstand was wonky when not at a desk. The type 2 cover keys had a really nice feel but a terrible mouse-touchpad thing. Even with the type 2 cover’s bit of rigidity the Surface was still too top-heavy to use effectively when not at a desk. It also got a little too warm as a tablet compared to…well…my iPad.

I was hoping the Surface Pro would cure my desire for a new 13 in. retina Macbook Pro. Instead, it was a short affair.

What Microsoft really needs to learn from this blog post has nothing to do with their hardware or software but rather their business systems and their understanding of how to interact with consumers. Because the $499. sale for last years Surface Pro was only over a weekend I ordered from the Microsoftstore.com online rather than risk not getting one at the retail store nearby in Boca Raton.

When I called Microsoft to let them know I wanted to make a return they said I “could” return it to the retail store but it sounded like that would be awkward. I just preferred to bring it back to return it to the store and close the case so to speak. When I went to the store the employees were very nice but couldn’t figure out how to use the case number I was given by the online Microsoftstore.com personnel. It took an incredibly long time for them to be able to process the return and 3 team members were involved to help get it to conclusion. The whole affair seemed painful to everyone and their systems. At one point someone mentioned that the online Microsoftstore.com and the retail store locations use different systems – really, really?

I will complement Microsoft’s employees who were very nice and made sure that I did everything required to have a successful return. In fact, it seemed like one or two went above and beyond to try and minimize the lack of cooperation from the systems. Honestly though, it was two 30+ minute calls to Microsoftstore.com support and 45 minutes at the Microsoft Store in Boca.

Microsoft, please take examine the retail user experience delivered by Apple. Seamless, swift, and never an unstated non-smile if you want to return something you decided against (as long as it’s in brand new condition).

Finally, and perhaps a contributor to my decision to return the Surface Pro, the recent browser usage statistics from New Relic show that IE is down to a paltry 14.8% share across more than 2 million application instances. If that’s not a signal that Microsoft’s role as THE predominant client is beyond repair I don’t know what is.

Maybe Microsoft should stick to what they have grown to be very good at – helping enterprises build and deliver corporate IT and applications and cede the consumer client space. The consumer client space will be dominated by those that focus on experiences and I’m just not feeling that competitiveness from this latest encounter.

Ken