I drove through the cold sun of a Colorado morning to the MS store at Lone Tree in Colorado to catch the tail end of the Surface launch. Getting there a couple of hours after opening, there were still over 100 people queuing to enter. It was a bit confusing since the store was relatively accessible and then I found out the queue was just for the people waiting to buy one, everyone else was already buying one. The store made people wait so they saw someone to unbox the device and ask any questions which makes sense.
The energy wandering around was quite something, loud beat music and smiles everywhere. The wrap around video wall was used to great effect with various Win8 promotional material flying around.
The device itself was impressive. Felt like an iPad with a bunch of differentiators. The windows button was touch sensitive unlike my x86 tablet with its normal solid button. The Touch Cover was deeply awesome and the thing I was worried wouldn’t work; the difference between resting your fingers on it and pressing was noticeable. Basically it felt like the apprehension of using an on-screen keyboard for the first few times: would it work? Yes it does, very well.
The engineering behind the cover, the device, the power cable, the stand is all way above par. This isn’t a piece of plastic. The stand is actually really nice but I’m not sure how it’ll work out on the tray table of a aircraft seat. Multi-touch was great, including things like rotating birdseye aerial maps in the Bing Maps app.
But wait! There’s more! There were tons of other Win8 devices around the store. The one above was an ASUS tablet with Microsoft keyboard and mouse. The keyboard was sweet but the mouse didn’t fit me well. The tablet itself is great, it’s more expensive than a surface for some reason that I didn’t bother to find out, probably more memory or something. The construction was great compared to other more plastic-derived devices. Actually, the keyboard was fantastic. Even compared to Apple mini keyboards with Bluetooth.
There were a bunch of desktop flatscreen all-on-one-computers also running Win8 and I can’t say there was a fault with any of them other than how it feels slightly strange touching the screen. After all, every computer I’ve used in the last 20 years or so hasn’t had one.
Overall? I know I work at Microsoft but even so, this is great execution. The store was approachable, the hardware was clearly very well thought out and the end product fit between the place, the people and the sale was put together excellently. It’s not far off from when I first went to an Apple Store, just evolved.