Behind the Scenes With Microsoft’s Surface Designers

CNet’s Tim Stevens goes behind-the-scenes in Microsoft’s hardware design studio:

First among Bathiche’s fixes is the new Touch Cover, barely distinguishable from the previous version externally, yet vastly different on the inside. What was basically one sensor per key, about 80 total, is now an array of 1,100 discrete sensors that can detect exactly how hard your finger is pressing and where it landed — even if it landed between keys. This enables gestures and a new level of accuracy that the original Surface lacked. Along the way, his team added backlit keys and increased the rigidity of the typing surface. “We went from 80 sensors to 1,100, we added a light guide, and it’s thinner. And it’s stiffer. That’s cool,” Bathiche says.

That is cool, and indeed many of the most interesting innovations in this new line of Surface tablets lie not in the devices themselves but in their accessories. But just as with the first Surface, these innovations run the risk of receiving a giant collective shrug from the public. People just don’t get excited about accessories, regardless of how innovative. Microsoft doesn’t include any of the keyboards in the price of either tablet. This lets users choose whether and which keyboard cover to purchase, but it also has the side-effect of relegating these devices to footnote status.

I think that’s Microsoft’s problem exactly. First impression seems to be that these second-generation Surfaces are very nice upgrades over last year’s — but I’m not sure they have anything that is going to give them traction in the market.

Monday, 23 September 2013