So, Microsoft and hardware, what’s the score. Surface tablets? Hit. Lumia phones? Limited success torpedoed by internal indifference. Band fitness trackers? Well received, but unreliable and not a sales success.
It’s a patchy record at best. Yet we are told that next month Microsoft will launch three Surface All-in-One devices in a bid to do what exactly?
Coincidentally I have one of the original Windows 8 AIOs – the Sony Vaio Tap 20. It was a disastrous mismatch of hardware and software that worked beautifully when it was running, but crashed and burned far too often to be usable or useful. Not long after getting it I wiped the drive and installed Ubuntu, which ran perfectly, and it still does as a homework machine for my kids.
The touchscreen features weren’t actually hugely useful and the usability benefits of an enormous tablet weren’t immediately obvious. Buyers of Samsung’s big screen Android tablet have reported similar experiences.
However as a desktop with a touchscreen the Vaio Tap 20 works well. Given that Windows 10 is best used with mouse, keyboard and touchscreen combined I see no reason why the proposed Surface AIO wouldn’t be similarly wonderful.
However that still doesn’t answer the question why? When Surface tablets were launched they were built to showcase how good Windows could be on a tablet, something Microsoft felt its partners weren’t willing or able to do. Over time that message has indeed got through (even if the side show of Windows RT mixed the message badly). Microsoft partners have upped their game and the Surface is now just one of a plethora of similarly wonderful Windows 10 portables.
That same reason for building an AIO doesn’t exist. There are many, good AIO machines available that don’t really leave much functionality on the table.
Which leads me to believe that if Microsoft has built an AIO for the home it must be because it has a hook that will make it a compelling device to own. This would need to be a pretty impressive advance to make it worth getting into a shrinking market and competing with its own partners. Something that it has said it won’t do in the smartphone space.
Alternatively Microsoft has played the media for fools and its October release will feature a new range of Surface tablets and Surface Books, as well as a Surface Phone and Band 3.
But I wouldn’t hold your breath.