Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Microsoft's new tablet: The unseemly chortling of the Apple partisans

June 19, 2012: 8:11 PM ET

The Surface is greeted with guffaws and catcalls from a camp that ought to know better

FORTUNE -- "I can sort of understand announcing without a ship date. But I can't understand announcing without prices," Daring Fireball's John Gruber wrote to his 205,000 followers on Twitter. "No battery life specs for either the ARM or Intel versions?  Starting to think this is a hoax."

Gruber was reacting to Microsoft's (MSFT) big reveal Monday: The family of tablet computers -- dubbed Surface -- announced at a closely watched press event in Hollywood.

The new machines got a mixed reaction from analysts on Wall Street, where they were generally received as Microsoft's belated answer to Apple's (AAPL) iPad. "If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," wrote Topeka's Brian White in a typical note to clients, "Microsoft poured down like a torrential rain on Apple last night."

But the catcalls from Apple partisans was less generous, and at times downright unseemly.

  • "Microsoft's Surface tablet destined to be as successful as the Zune," was the headline on MacDailyNews, a reference to the portable music player Microsoft introduced in 2006 and killed two weeks ago.
  • "Microsoft, what the hell is wrong with you?" asked ZDNet's Jason Perlow. "Maybe I'm cranky... but Microsoft's new Surface tablet still has catastrophe written all over it."
  • "Cluster, meet f..k," wrote TechCrunch's MG Siegler on his Paris Lemon blog. "'Surface for Windows RT' and 'Surface for Windows 8 Pro' sound like fake names I came up with while drunk last night."

There were dissenters, of course. "I may be a lone voice," tweeted The Verge's Joshua Topolsky. "But I do not think the Surface can just be written off." And from some there was real enthusiasm. "Microsoft Surface Just Made the MacBook Air and the iPad Look Obsolete," was the headline on Jesus Diaz' Gizmodo story.

Both sides probably ought to cool their rhetoric for now, given that the Windows RT version of the Surface won't be available for review until sometime this fall and the Windows 8 version 90 days after that.

Gruber in particular risks being hoist with his own petard. He famously collects what he calls Claim Chowder -- confident predictions by industry pundits that one or another Apple product is doomed to failure. If the Surface does well -- which it is likely to do in enterprises that require Windows-based solutions -- Gruber's remarks about Monday's "hoax" could end up in someone else's chowder.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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