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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

The Back Page: Thank You for Your Surface

Dear China Development Forum,

This is Tim. I’d like to thank you for kindly providing me—and the rest of the attendees at your recent meeting—with a Microsoft Surface. It was truly a thoughtful gesture, the likes of which has probably not been seen outside of clearance racks at the Microsoft Campus Store in Redmond.

While obviously my personal preference is for iPad, I decided that perhaps the current climate—and the challenges that iPad sales have had in the past few years—made this the right time to expand my horizons and try out a new piece of hardware. I must say that though I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had both a keyboard and a touchscreen, which I think you’ll find is very very similar to iPad Pro.

I realize that in the past I have derided the Surface and devices of its ilk as “toaster fridges.” After spending some time with the Surface, I’d like to formally apologize for that remark—I can see now that my words were hasty and ill-considered and that I spoke out of turn. The Surface, as it turns out, is neither toaster nor fridge. I tested both of these features and found them lacking.

Excited as I was by the prospect of such a device, I brought with me two slices of gluten-free bread. But upon placing them on the Surface, I found that it completely and utterly failed to toast them. Not so much as a browned crumb. Perhaps I just couldn’t locate the controls in the interface? Was I supposed to use the keyboard and navigate it as if it were a PC? Or are the toast controls touch-only? The lack of discoverability makes this a frustrating feature to use. Rest assured that if toasting capability were added to the iPad—and we have nothing to announce about that today—we would ensure that controls would be easily accessible from Control Center.

Likewise, I expected some clearer indication of where to insert my bottle of iced tea for chilling. Beneath the kickstand would have seemed the logical place, but I could find no evidence of any sort of cooling features there. Perhaps it requires some sort of external accessory? Maybe attached through this legacy headphone jack? I was prepared to be impressed by the ability to fit a cooling unit in such a small device, but honestly, the external case seemed quite warm, and I was doubtful of its ability to make even a single ice cube, crushed or otherwise.

Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to discuss some of these, so that in the future when you consider handing out devices to your attendees, you can make a more informed decision. Please be assured that I have donated this particular Surface unit to a worthy cause in a local school, where it is helping stabilize a wobbly table in the computer lab. As a single-purpose device it excels in that particular use case.

Tim Cook

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

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