The commercials in this article are TV spots I recently mixed for Microsoft's Surface Pro 3.
People who know me well know that I am a pretty devout Apple follower. My iPhone never leaves my hand. My personal Macbook rests on a desk next to my Mac-based audio workstation at the recording studio. Most of the television I watch is through our Apple TV at home. My wife, a professional photographer, spends a lot of her day on her Mac editing in photoshop. While our iPad has died and we’re considering a replacement, it served a an e-reader for my wife, a traveling entertainment center for our daughter, and an occasional game console for me. All this while two very old Mac Mini systems sit idle in our home.
I’ve been saying for a while now that when my Macbook dies (it’s the original unibody from 2008), I don’t plan on replacing it with another Macbook. In fact, so many of the things I would do on my Macbook are now done on my iPhone, I don’t even bother bringing it back and forth to work any more. It’s tremendously liberating to head home from work with nothing more than my phone (in it’s wallet case) and a house key. My thought has been to eventually get an iPad air to cart around and be more productive on, and also a good Mac Mini for home use. This arrangement would give me a place at home to do paperwork, edit movies, sort out my iPhoto albums and all those other things one does with their Mac, while the iPad would keep me connected and productive on the go and at work.
But now I feel conflicted. Almost dirty! Yesterday I went out for a stroll here in New York City to hunt down a replacement microphone for my daughters karaoke machine. I wound up in the Best Buy around the corner from the studio. They didn’t have any microphones. But they did have rows and rows of tablets and gadgets. So finally, after working on a recent campaign for the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft- I walked over and spent a few minutes on one. It was just an innocent glance that turned into a little bit of touching. Nothing serious. But in a flash, the iPad seemed dated. My Macbook felt irrelevant. My world was turned upside down. I quickly left and got back to work surrounded by my Apple products.
But I haven’t been able to get that moment out of my mind! Having never used it before, I knew exactly what button to push to get it going. Just like the iPad ‘home key’, the Surface Pro has the Windows key to bring up a set of tiles to touch and get to the next app. My Macbook doesn’t have that! Sure, OS X has launchpad if you want to pretend it’s a little like an iPad… but it’s a 2 stroke key command to activate. C’mon Apple- give us a home key on our Macs! My fingers gently slid across the Surface screen and a whole new world seemed to open up before me. It was everything that made the iPad grow so fast in popularity! Common sense, intuitive design. It did all the things I had expected from a tablet- contacts, calendars, email, surfing. But there was so much more! That damn keyboard they kept touting in their ads with that tell-tale “click” sound. What a bunch of hype and crap, right?? Wrong! This thing has a track pad on it like my Macbook… and it’s a really slick feeling keyboard that was surprisingly satisfying to touch. Sure, you can buy a million variations on bluetooth keyboards for the iPad if you want. But this was different. This felt like a real computer. And sure, you can scroll through banks of little square shaped app logos on the iPad and group them any way you like. But this flowing, scrolling window arrangement seemed to make that feel old school almost immediately. And next to it was a pen! You could write on the screen with a PEN! Sure, that’s nothing new. But this didn’t have a finger-sized rubber circle as a tip- it had an actual TIP! It was useful! Alright I admit it. I have a crush on this damn thing!!
As I sit here typing away on my aging Macbook, my crush has turned to annoyance at Apple. From what I can see, every year (or more), Apple puts on a show and rolls out the latest and greatest gizmos! There have been some historical moments over the years: the launch of the iPod. The launch of the iPhone. The iPad. Very innovative devices, even if they did (in some ways) just improve upon existing technologies. They have a history of seeing what people need and then doing it right! So each time a new event is announced, I get all giddy. Can’t wait! Sure, I know it will make me feel like what I own now is crap… and I’ll just want more stuff I don’t NEED, but I love those events. Well… used to. They’re boring now and predictable down to the language. I could probably draft up an entire Apple event for next year right now, and all that would change are the exact specs for the device improvements. Tim Cook takes the stage and tells us how Apple is outselling the competition . Then he’ll bring out the rest of the crew one by one to show us exactly what we’ve already seen before: It’s a little thinner now. It’s a little lighter now. The battery life has improved. The camera is better. It’s made using glass that came from an asteroid that passed the furthest edges of the galaxy and was polished using the shaved heads of 10,000 Buddhist monks. But it’s still just a tablet with a few rows of square icons. No, I don’t think we should expect “iPad launch caliber events" every time Apple has a presentation. But they have dropped the ball. While we’re getting little improvements and tighter cloud integration- MICROSOFT is giving me something I can REALLY USE!!!
You see, I THOUGHT I wanted to ditch my Macbook and stop carrying it back and forth to work. But the Surface Pro IS a laptop with an intuitive design and everything else you’d expect from a tablet. Sure, I’m pretty deeply entrenched in the Apple IOS/ OS X ecosystem. But Microsoft has my attention! My wife could run PHOTOSHOP on the Surface Pro 3 and then just take it in the den to read a book when she wants. She could hook up a secondary display with it… as well as other peripherals. Or my daughter could watch a movie on a long car trip. It’s powerful and versatile.
Leading up to Apple’s last event, I fully expected to see their version of a Surface Pro. I wanted to see the power of a Macbook Air- but with a touch screen and removable keyboard. Hell, they could take it a step further and stick a PHONE inside the computer! Let me have a data plan and phone service for my Macbook/touchscreen hybrid. I use bluetooth headphones to listen to music and talk anyway- so it could just stay in a bag in ‘phone mode’. So what’s going on Apple? It’s been several years of the same old-same old. You can tell us all you want how IOS devices are outselling Microsoft devices… and that’s probably true… but eventually people are going to get bored! And before you know it, they’ll be standing in front of the sexy newcomer… hands all over it.. feeling like what they have at home just isn’t working for them anymore.
What’s your experience? Are you a Surface Pro User? Are you an Apple convert? I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.