Ever since release I've been following Microsoft's Surface tablets, and when I say following I mean I've bought a few of them. I recently upgraded to the Surface Pro 3 and so my older Surface 2 (based on Windows RT) has been gathering dust. It is with sadness that I'll put it up for sale, the Surface 2 was a wonderful device that exceeded my expectations.
This got me thinking about the Surface. It's a great device, yet did so poorly in the perception game. What could Microsoft have done differently with a mulligan?
When the Surface RT was launched alongside a Surface tablet running full Windows, Microsoft's haters and fans could agree on something for once: Surface RT had no future. What was the point of a device that had both the limitations of Windows (no tablet apps) and none of its strengths (no PC apps)?
So I got the Surface Pro. With time, however, I realized I only did three things with it: 1) browse the web, 2) play media, and 3) work with Office. If not for Office, I wouldn't even need the desktop. Moreover, the Surface Pro was just too thick and heavy.
That's how I arrived at the Surface 2. The Surface 2 fulfills those three needs well and in an amazingly portable form factor too. It was also a lot cheaper!
What if Microsoft had just branded the Surface as an Office-dedicated device? Office was (is) the only reason to get a Windows RT device, so why not just go all in on that fact?
Why not call it the Microsoft 'Officebook'...
It's the thinnest and lightest portable computer for full Office. It's not a device for tech geeks; it's a device for the average consumer with simple requirements, and Office.
Here's the pitch to someone walking into Best Buy:
Need something that can run Office? The Officebook is designed just for that.
You can carry this thing everywhere: it's the lightest and thinnest device for Office and it has all-day battery life. It's great for browsing the Internet and watching movies, too, because you can use it as a tablet. See? And when you want to type in Word just put the keyboard back in. There are also games and other apps that you can download from the store.
All this for just $499. Keyboard and Office included, of course. An amazing price when you consider how thin and light this is compared to that bulky Dell laptop there.
Try holding it -- see how it feels.
And if they ask:
It doesn't run full Windows, it's a special computer Microsoft built just for Office.
I would make a few changes to the software, too. There shouldn't be a desktop. It should just be the Modern environment plus Office. Even if technically Office would run in the desktop, casual users don't need to know that.
On the Start screen, users tap on the Office tile. They are taken to desktop which looks nothing like the desktop we know -- there's no Windows button, there's no time and date on the bottom right, no volume control, and so on. There's only a taskbar -- set to combine only when full -- reskinned in the Modern flat style with five icons: Outlook, Word, OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint.
Ok, make it six with File Explorer, except it's not the Explorer we know, it's Office Explorer and it only shows Office files in the user's directory. Office Explorer is not how you browse photos -- go to the Modern Photos app for that. The Office Explorer is just for opening Office documents.
In other words, the desktop is disguised to look like a dedicated Office app. As far as the user is concerned, there is no desktop. There's just Office.
I would not allow users to access the Control Panel or any other system settings aside from what's in the Modern side. No command prompt either. There's only one browser and that's Modern Internet Explorer.
The Officebook is for the average office person, not the IT geek.
The Officebook wouldn't have been this weird, Frankenstein thing that nobody understands -- it would be a device with a clear purpose, a specific target market and backed by a differentiated product that can actually deliver.
It's obvious why you'd buy the Officebook instead of an iPad or Chromebook. It's the best portable Office experience you can get for under $500.
I think the Officebook would have done quite OK actually.