Posted by: kurtsh | October 17, 2012

POST: “Inside Surface: Microsoft’s Insane Quest for Gadget Perfection”


This is an really awesome article on the Surface division at Microsoft that Sam Biddle at Gizmodo wrote.  Even as an employee, this is the first time I’ve seen shots of the team dev room. 

I highly recommend reading this.

In a pretend Microsoft retail store in a nondescript Redmond shopping compound, masked from the outside world and cordoned off by corporate paramilitary forces—I had to attach a labeled sticky note to my phone and surrender it before entering—is a prototype of what every Microsoft store will look like when Surface launches. "Store Zero," they call it. It’s a fake store, but the idea is very real: All Surface Everything. The word is everywhere. Almost half the joint is covered with slate samples. And in the back, on a very large screen, we were treated to a preview of the first ad for Microsoft’s wunderkomputer, a one minute dance montage directed by the guy who brought us Step Up 2 and one of the G.I. Joe movies. It’s sixty seconds of people whirling around with impeccable matte Surfaces, clicking the keyboards into place, spinning into each others’ arms, grinning, winking, spinning more, twirling upside down—an orgiastic tablet frenzy, a perfect hybrid of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and late-season Glee.

Microsoft presents Surface with the pride parents would ascribe to a drumming, overachieving baby. Its creators actually refer to it as "baby" on multiple occasions.

Absent from the ad is any mention of how you actually use the computer, or why you should. Which is odd, because Microsoft gave me a meticulously guided tour of its hermetically sealed R&D facilities just to impress upon me how much thought it put into the Surface as a super-slim ultra-computer of the current millennium, not a musical dance prop. And there’s no reason to doubt it: Microsoft poured an unprecedented amount of dedication and consideration into Surface, easily (ostensibly) equaling Apple’s recent design fanaticism with the iPhone 5. It shines with thoughtfulness. The size of the screen was agonized over, oscillating between fractions of an inch to reach ideal proportions for Windows 8’s multitasking. It uses a proprietary fusion technique that Microsoft gives it a better overall picture quality against the Retina iPad, even with a fraction of the resolution—it certainly does look good. It had to feel exactly like a book, spine and all. The kickstand, project leaders explained to us, was carefully tweaked so that it would sound exactly perfect when it snaps shut. The extent to which this click was obsessed over during the design process seems like marketing hot air, then insanity, and then after you keep hearing them talk about it, you realize it’s just a company truly giving a damn about making something beautiful and nearly perfect.

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