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Saturday
Oct272012

Hey, @MarcoArment is clever, you guys!

So yesterday Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and host (with Dan Benjamin) of 5by5's Build and Analyze podcast, was in the mall on his way to get something from the Apple store, when he saw a big setup in front of the Microsoft Store

And because Marco Arment is John Gruber's right ass-cheek, he decided to be clever. Because on the Windows Surface launch day, on a day when even rabidly anti-PC folks like Cult of Mac are giving Microsoft props for creating interest in their product and posting long lines of people eager to buy Microsoft's new tablet, he describes a very sad looking setup in front of the store, along with a huge number of MS employees, who outnumbered the customers by a wide margin.

Get it, you guys? It's so sad, because even on launch day for a major new initiative, Microsoft can't drum up a crowd! What goddamn suckers!

Marco then points out, hey, it's nearly 4pm

You go into an Apple store on a product launch day, that near to the end of the launch day, you won't see lines. Idiot. Because by that point all of the people in those lines have already bought the device they were waiting for, and have gone home to use it. Nice try, though, Arment. Nice try.

Marco decides to go into the store -- which is so eerily like Apple's store it's crazy, because apparently a company entering a new kind of space shouldn't look to the market leader and take the lessons it can from them -- to check out the tablet. 

Now, to be fair, it sounds like the salesmen were very enthusiastic, and a bit pushy. That would be understandably annoying, but since it's the launch day for a big product, that makes sense. But rather than leaving it at a 1:1 ratio of insanity and not, Marco cannonballs off the diving board of reason and splashes the living hell out of all the good sense trying to enjoy a nice cool glass of logic beside the pool.

Like the Zune, the Surface might always be competing with the previous-generation iPad. Microsoft has approximately matched the weight of the already-too-heavy iPad 3 right as Apple is releasing the far lighter iPad Mini. (And Microsoft just launched this tablet at $500 as everyone else is moving to much lower pricing.)

So apparently the iPad Mini is the new flagship iPad for Apple, with its lower-speed processor and non-retina display, and all new tablets are to be compared to it. Who the crap would make this comparison? The 10" tablet is too heavy because it's not as light as a 7" tablet? That's moronic. Also, everyone else is moving on to much lower pricing? Who, Apple? Because I must've been too doped up on Ovaltine to notice the bit at the iPad Mini announcement where they dropped prices on the full-sized iPad. 

Hey Marco: announcing a smaller version of something at a lower price isn't dropping the price of the larger model, unless the price of the larger model is actually dropped.

The standard gestures don’t help, requiring many in-from-the-edge swipes that not only aren’t discoverable but also frequently conflict with scrolling. My gestures often didn’t work, and it wasn’t clear whether there just wasn’t a hidden context menu at that moment or I just screwed up the swipe.

Discoverability is definitely a problem with any system that adds new ones -- like, say, the Blackberry Playbook -- but in the 'your crap stinks, too' department, Apple isn't exactly discoverable. Most people get the basics down, but go ask any random person using an iOS device how to switch apps without using the home button, and tell me what the response is. Even with greatly simplified devices, the average user doesn't know much about it. 

But since it responds to touches rather than mechanical pressure, you can’t rest your fingers on it without triggering key presses. Your fingers must hover over it, which makes it easy to get misaligned from your expected positions and type a bunch of wrong characters. I had a hard time keeping alignment when I needed to stretch for the boundary keys, including Shift. Every time I typed a capital letter, I mistyped the next few letters.

Uh oh, I think Marco screwed up when discussing the cool Touch Cover, there, because there was actual goddamn logic in that bit. Careful, Marco, you'll never take over the rest of John Gruber's body if you employ any reason at all!

Marco talks about some admittedly weird and wrong things the salespeople he was talking to said, such as denying the value of a Retina display. I'd be curious to know if that was in the script they were given, or if they were all just super-over-excited about launch day. 

Maybe they were told to impersonate Steve Ballmer.

Marco frustratingly ends his little clever whackadoodle by admitting that this would appeal to Windows users, and that he knew from the jump that it was not for him. He basically approached entering the store like some anthropological tour, some rich white guy chuckling at how backwards the bone-through-the-nose natives are, how quaint that they haven't discovered the iPad, dear! Muahaha! Before he gets there, though, he drops this one last steaming whopper:

Like John Moltz, I’m left to ask the question: why buy a Surface instead of an iPad? For the price, you can almost buy two baseline iPad Minis. Or you can buy a 32 GB iPad Mini with LTE and a Smart Cover.

Why even make the iPad mini comparison? Who cares if you can get two of a smaller thing for the price of a different larger thing? Also, with the amount Arment has dropped "iPad mini" specifically in his recounting of his Microsoft Store experience, you've got to wonder if I missed a "sponsored disclaimer" post at the top of the article. 

I just checked. It may read like an iPad mini ad, but if it is, there's no recognition of it. 

Seriously, who the goddamn crap in hell cares if you can get two iPad minis for the price of one surface (or one full-sized iPad)? I could buy two smaller televisions for the price of one larger television, but does that mean I should buy the two small ones and stich them together so I can watch my favorite shows twice at the same time? No, I shouldn't. Shut up. 

I could buy several pairs of socks for the price of a shirt, too, but what if I don't want several pairs of socks? What if I want a shirt, Marco? What then? What if I just want to buy my shirt because I need a shirt because it's cold and my nipples are pointy and even though the socks would cover my pointy nipples, they wouldn't cover the rest of my upper body because the socks only go up to my wrists?

Yeah, I didn't think you'd have a proper response for that, even though you're so very clever.

Shut up.

 

References (37)

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Reader Comments (20)

"Marco Arment is John Gruber's right ass-cheek"

Not possible. Gruber's ass cheeks are hairy and Marco is bald.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMacroTorment

You sound like a butt hurt MS fanboy. Congrats

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaad

"...who the goddamn crap in hell cares if you can get two iPad minis for the price of one surface..."

People who have two kids.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I am an apple lover through and through and would personally not buy a surface. Having said that, this blog post is fantastic and points to a bigger problem in the apple developer community. Marco is just another in a long list of arrogant snobby developers. I applaud your rebuttal and you point out many truths!

I doubt Marco will read the replies but if you don't, that this post and shove it! You have good apps, you have a following but your customer service and support are complete shit!

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAverage Joe - Apple Lover

Yea, I read Macro's blog but whenever he discusses hardware it makes me cringe. The iPad mini in comparison to the Surface is just really off. "Marco Arment is John Gruber's right ass-cheek" is pretty appropriate.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Gestures have always been a secondary means of navigating iOS. Sure you can do a 5-finger pinch to get back to the home screen or a 4-finger swipe to move between apps, but you can use your iPad just fine without it. You can Control-C to copy, but the more discoverable approach, albeit slower, is the File menu. Pressing the Home button is the same thing. The difference is that while gestures are simply keyboard shortcuts in iOS reserved for more pro users, they're the primary mode of navigating and using Windows RT. You can navigate iOS just fine without gestures, but unless someone teaches you to swipe from the edges of the screen in Windows RT, you're completely screwed. That's no way to design an operating system.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

I still can't believe he actually asked the Microsoft Store employee "Did you apply for a job at the Apple Store first, and then came here?" That's extremely rude. What a dick!

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam

That's fair, though from what I understand the surface (along with other win 8 tablet models) will have a series of help videos to show you the new interface, and some come up when you first use it.

October 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterWalt Mosspuppet

@Sean: Windows RT gestures are nowhere near as complicated as the iOS gestures. You just need to learn to swipe from the four edges, that's all. No 2, 3, 4, 5 finger gestures.

But yes, it's not very discoverable. And you know what? That's exactly why the Store employees are probably trying to demonstrate it so thoroughly. But obviously Marco was too "cool" a person to have the willingness to learn something from a Microsoft Store employee.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam

u mad bro?

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Rest of the Internet

So. I can't help but ask. Who is Grubers other butt cheek? Extending the metaphor. Who's asshole are you? The surface is a nice start. Years late and short of reasonable expectations, but a nice start. I'll keep me retina and the quarter million iPad apps.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwmsey

These guys are intelligently biased :). I think they may benefit from a refresher course in journalism. It could be that they aren't even conscious of their bias and mistakes now and then. No one's perfect but because they're in the spotlight everyone can easily point fingers.

For instance when Marco blocked Instapaper from working with 9to5Mac. He handled that wrong.

They do/did cool things in the community and share interesting information and views.But stay on your A game because we're all watching you famous "tech stars".

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter2Cents

Holy crap! This was awesome! I was looking for a button to donate something just for the sheer entertainment value I got out of it. So good.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdajunga

Hope you have another response ready for @dannysullivan .. he actually referred to Marco's as an appetizer before he got his ready.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdajunga

Grow up Mosspuppet! What a wympy MS fanboy you turned out to be!

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Grennadine

Loved your post. :)

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAM

Well! I read the Marco Arment's article too. I did not know about him much but the first thing I did after reading the article was to search for the words "Marco Arment apple paid shill". Enough said! Good Reposte!

October 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPrasad T

Marco wrote:
<I>But since it responds to touches rather than mechanical pressure, you can’t rest your fingers on it without triggering key presses. Your fingers must hover over it, which makes it easy to get misaligned from your expected positions and type a bunch of wrong characters</I>

Did he even read a review of the Surface, let alone touch one? As virtually any review you find will state something like this:
<I>Microsoft has attuned its software so that laying your hands on it in any natural way does not trigger action; only direct typing is accepted. This means that you will all but never hit a key by accident.</I>

Having used one, if there's something to complain about with the touch cover it's the price. If you're really stretching, maybe the backspace key or the enter key when holding the device at a weird angle in your lap. Not that you have to hover over the keyboard like you do on an iPad or a Surface without the cover.

October 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

Why mention the iPad Mini?

Because wven though it's slower than the full-size iPad, it still has a few advantages: price, portability, weight.

The iPad mini is where the puck is now. It's where Microsoft should have been skating towards while designing the Surface. But thy weren't, and by the time they've caught up, the competition will have moved on.

October 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb123

It isn't where the puck is now; the mini is a smaller iPad 2, which is baffling. Slower than the 3rd/4th gen iPad, and without a retina display.

Apple's the one chasing the wrong target, there.

This product would at least make more sense if the iPad 2 wasn't being sold anymore.

October 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterWalt Mosspuppet

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