The C Word

Walt Mossberg, reviewing the Microsoft Surface Pro:

It’s too hefty and costly and power-hungry to best the leading tablet, Apple’s full-size iPad. It is also too difficult to use in your lap. It’s something of a tweener — a compromised tablet and a compromised laptop.

From the Surface introduction event, eight months ago:

Mr. Ballmer and other Microsoft executives repeatedly use the words “no compromises” to describe the tablet computers they envision running Windows 8 and Windows RT — which means that users will be able to use work-oriented tools like Microsoft Word and Excel programs, not just be used for watching movies and surfing the Web.

Steven Sinofsky, back in August:

Our goal was a no compromise design. […] We chose to take the approach of building a design without compromise. […] You don’t have to compromise! […] Our design goal was clear: no compromises.

Joanna Stern, reviewing the Surface Pro for ABC News (headline: “A Tablet/Laptop Hybrid With Compromises”):

As a tablet, the Surface Pro is not as strong as its competitors. It’s larger, the battery life can’t compete and still lacks critical apps. As a laptop it’s hampered by its smaller screen size, lack of a good mouse option and the fact that it doesn’t really sit on your lap. Putting the two together results in a breed that’s simply not as compelling as separate tablets and laptops.

Tim Stevens, reviewing the Surface Pro for Engadget:

Finally, just getting into the tablet takes longer than the Android or iOS competition. Hit the power button and you’ll have to wait for about three to four seconds for the display to pop on. […]

The Surface Pro comes about as close as we’ve yet experienced, but it’s still compromised at both angles of attack. When trying to be productive, we wished we had a proper laptop and, when relaxing on the couch, we wished we had a more finger-friendly desktop interface — though more native Windows 8 apps might solve the problem by keeping us from having to even go there.

Harry McCracken, reviewing it for Time:

Microsoft likes to use the phrase “no compromises” when describing that versatility, but in fact, Surface Pro — like all computing devices — is a study in compromises. It’s bulkier than Surface RT because its components require more interior space. Microsoft’s stated battery life is five hours, compared to eight for Surface RT. Even the AC adapter is portlier.

David Pierce, reviewing it for The Verge:

It’s too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it’s too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do.

Yours truly, back in September 2011:

Microsoft and Apple are going in two very different directions, especially when you compare iOS to Windows 8. Apple has embraced compromise. The compromises in iOS are, for many people in many contexts, what makes the iPad better than a Mac. The compromises enforce simplicity and obviousness in design, and at a technical level they lead to iOS’s excellent battery life.

I do work on the road using a MacBook Air, not an iPad, because I’m one of those users for whom the iPad’s design compromises get in the way, and slow me down. But I like having the iPad as a separate device, for reading and video. The marvel of the iPad is not that it can replace a Mac. It’s that it opened the door to all sorts of things that a Mac was never all that good for.

I was wrong to argue that only Apple had embraced compromise. The truth is, all design is about compromise. Where Apple and Microsoft have forked is with regard to what they’re willing to compromise on.