It’s been a funny old week for Microsoft Surface. A lesser known marketing agency has been catapulted in to the spotlight after they published a post describing their frustrations setting up the Surface device.
If Laurel and Hardy had been tasked with setting up Surface then this would be their perfect script.
"After 20 full minutes of looking and reading (on how to turn the device on), the three of us, each with a 4-year college degree, finally punted and called the help desk"
They later admitted their drama was embellished for comedy effect. So surely this humorous account of technical ineptitude would be dismissed as one person’s struggle to conquer basic tasks? No, instead the controversy that this post ignited saw the mavens set to work.
“Our sleepy little company blog could count on about 20 hits a day (thanks Mom!), and as of today we’ve gotten over 20,000.”
Hundreds of twitterers jumped on the bash-a-Microsoft-bandwagon and this sorry story of one company’s failure to plug in the device spread like wildfire, with alarmist headlines such as “Microsoft Surface sucks a whole bunch to set up.”
Why did this post create such a stir? Because where Microsoft is concerned, there are always people looking to have a pop. This tweetsteria was quickly followed by the same company’s naive quip asking why they ship a multi-touch device with a keyboard! Again, the bash-a-Microsoft-bandwagon wheels started rollin'.
For any reasonably intelligent individual, plugging the Surface device in shouldn't be a challenge.
For any practitioners in multi-touch design the reason for shipping a keyboard and mouse is clear. Audio & visual cues don't compensate for tactile feedback. Without haptic feedback, virtual keyboards don't quite cut it. Of course the user mode is gesture-based but to administer a PC with a virtual keyboard! no no no. It will happen but they’re just not there yet.
But the tweets kept on coming with twitterers rejoicing at the revelation that Microsoft Surface is shipped with a keyboard.
And then came the twist...the marketing agency did a u-turn. They pulled their original post and replaced it with a sort of apology come more accurate view of the events. Was this because they realised that their stab at humour had attempted to undermine a landmark device that has brought natural user interfaces to the mainstream?
But this replacement post served to fuel a further wave of tweetsteria with headlines such as “Microsoft contacts blogger and has it removed”.
STOP! Aren't we missing the point?
Natural user interfaces have been around for several decades but we are finally seeing mainstream adoption. The iPhone has accelerated the interest in multi-touch, no longer niche, but with Microsoft Surface natural user interfaces have truly come of age.
Microsoft Surface incorporates naturalness, encourages social interaction, and brings playfulness to the party. We are living in interesting times. Microsoft Surface offers a different way of interacting and manipulating content. This is not a subtle change but a revolution in the way we interface with digital content. I am glad to be involved in this interaction revolution.
We should be celebrating this new interaction paradigm and applauding the technology giants we-love-to-hate. However, the past seven days for Microsoft Surface has been all about the circus surrounding one team’s struggle to set up the device! Any setup shortcomings pale in significance to this giant leap for the next generation of user interactions.Of course the Surface device is flawed and yes, there is much to criticise. What device isn't? Microsoft Surface is at the beginning of a long journey and I imagine that by 2012 it will be a very different beast. But it’s presentations like Tap is the New Click that remind me we are living in exciting times.
Fortunately this circus has a happy ending. The agency’s latest post recognises that “the Surface unit itself is a fantastic touch-screen computing experience ...” and “it is a great platform that will be exciting to watch develop in the future...” hear hear.
The Marketing Company clearly understands the value of Microsoft Surface in evolving this interaction paradigm. Had they envisaged the “web-muck” that would follow their post it is unlikely they would have posted their original comedy-take-on-events. Not because they shouldn’t shout down Microsoft, but because this has distracted everyone from the huge step that Microsoft Surface has taken in bringing this new interaction paradigm to the masses.
Instead of celebrating the shortcomings of Microsoft Surface, let the engaging experiences make the headlines.