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Microsoft Surface Studio
A dazzling product that represents a fundamental shift in the industry.
NEW YORK (Rixstep) — Here in the Big Apple, the day before Apple's much-touted presentation of their new laptop lineup, Panos Panay introduced a revolutionary new product.
To paraphrase John Lettice, the best way to explain it is to not explain it.
The vocal, of Gene Wilder's 'Pure Imagination' from 'Willy Wonka', written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, is by British actress and current California resident Stephanie Tarling. Her perfect interpretation garnered towards ten million views in the first days of release, this without being a major Gaga/Swift promotion.
The video is otherwise a technical achievement in itself. More can be read here.
But what's really needed to fully grasp the impact of this product is the talk given by Panos Panay. Here's a reasonable summary.
The guy is obviously worked up about his product. He's arguably the best stage controller in IT since Steve Jobs. In terms of pure charisma, a comparison to the Jobs presentation in 2007 of iPhone comes immediately to mind.
But what's interesting here is below surface level.
Microsoft quietly stepped into a market niche once owned by Apple, a niche Apple casually ignored and left behind.
When IBM introduced their PC, Apple countered with their Mac, and together with PARC alumni Adobe, 'desktop publishing'.
After years of stagnation, Steve Jobs was tentatively welcome on the Apple campus again. The big news was the 'merger' with NeXT, and with the 'rock solid foundation' in the BSD core. Apple became the 'Great White Hope' against the world of Windows. Apple had their legacy customer base, but were much more interested in Wintel refugees. Virginia Tech purchased a platoon of Apple servers and turned the constellation into the world's fifth most powerful supercomputer.
A single-digit demographic gave way with the advent of iPod and iTunes. Steve finally got the music industry to sign up. Computer sales started taking a back seat.
Then came the cataclysmic iPhone project, which must stand as one of the greatest industrial achievements in recent history.
But through it all, creativity more and more took a back seat. Angry Birds and getting Siri to order pizza became more important. And Steve was justifiably enthusiastic about it all - he'd always been fascinated by gadgets, save for a few brief years in Redwood City where he seemed to appreciate conceptual beauty.
Apple's core market got left behind - and at no time was this more painfully and dramatically felt than at Cupertino's own presentation followup the day after. Lasting but an hour, it put the audience to sleep. From a haggard Tim Cook on down, it became apparent that no one at Apple cared much about what they were touting. Price-gouging only added insult to injury.
There's an elephant in the room of course, and its name is Windows. Using an endemically insecure operating system is the ultimate deal-breaker.
But make no mistake about it: Microsoft of today, no longer encumbered by their fossilised CEOs of old, are a computer hardware company just like Apple. That's another market they squeezed into when Tim Cook wasn't looking.
Creative use of personal computers isn't going away, as Panos demonstrated convincingly on 26 October.
Be it layout managers, architects, graphics designers, movie producers, symphony composers, cartoonists, whatever: the world's full of people for whom 'tap-tap-tap' is an insufferable mind-numbing bore.