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Old Sep 30, 2013, 01:15 PM   #1
Liquorpuki
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Surface Blade concept

This is something I thought was cool from last week

Blades = generic name for their keyboard covers. So far they've all been QWERTY keyboards but they showed off a cover with a DAW control surface, faders, and drumpads



We know even though they didn't release any peripherals that used it, the original Surface was outfitted with extra pins to transfer current between it and the peripheral. This is how that upcoming power cover is able to charge the unit and how the new keyboards are backlit. The cover also allows for data flow, so once the blade is connected, it can autoinstall companion software - that's how the Remix blade works.

Microsoft regularly gets pegged as being lousy at hardware because of their Zune flop and the fact they've historically monetized through software but one hardware market they've entered/succeeded that's never talked about is peripherals. It wouldn't be a stretch for them to leverage their expertise on peripherals to create more innovative blades. Being good at peripherals is how they managed to fit a mechanical keyboard inside a ridiculously thin cover while Apple is still charging people $50 for a piece of polyurethane whose defining feature is it folds into a triangle.

What would be really interesting is if they released an SDK and allowed for third parties to create blades. This could blow up as a submarket catering to everything from niche applications to cinnib workflow related. Things like solar panel blades to covers for video editing, user customizable blades, game specific blades, etc



And before someone says a Blade is a ripoff of Logitech iPad keyboard case, no, this is the first time you have a peripheral that's able to transfer both data and power in both directions and with practically zero burden on the user (no pairing process, usb dongle, etc). I have no clue how MS's execution on the concept will be (execution isn't one of their strong points) but I think there's a ton of potential here.
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Old Sep 30, 2013, 01:51 PM   #2
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I don't see why they can't just make an infinite-purpose blank "blade" that transforms into anything an application requires of it. Think of it as a large, programmable touchscreen that can shapeshift into a keyboard, that DJ cover, a Courier-like companion, a surface for pen input, or whatever. I'd buy that, and I'm sure developers would go crazy over it.
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Old Sep 30, 2013, 02:48 PM   #3
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Quote:
Microsoft regularly gets pegged as being lousy at hardware because of their Zune flop and the fact they've historically monetized through software but one hardware market they've entered/succeeded that's never talked about is peripherals. It wouldn't be a stretch for them to leverage their expertise on peripherals to create more innovative blades. Being good at peripherals is how they managed to fit a mechanical keyboard inside a ridiculously thin cover while Apple is still charging people $50 for a piece of polyurethane whose defining feature is it folds into a triangle.
I wouldn't call the Smart Cover a peripheral. Apple makes very nice keyboards, mice and historically a whole host of accessories, including printers.

Microsoft is known for making functional products. Apple charges a premium because they invest in style as much as function and the consumer market obviously rewards them for such behavior. Microsoft subsidizes entire product lines JUST to sell software....Xbox and Xbox 360 being the best examples.

The last time Microsoft invested in style they gave us this:

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Old Sep 30, 2013, 04:14 PM   #4
Liquorpuki
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Originally Posted by ReallyBigFeet View Post
Microsoft is known for making functional products. Apple charges a premium because they invest in style as much as function and the consumer market obviously rewards them for such behavior. Microsoft subsidizes entire product lines JUST to sell software....Xbox and Xbox 360 being the best examples.
Compared to Apple, every company is second-rate with design. Apple's design ethos is second to none, particularly in industrial hardware design. I wouldn't rule out MS's design aesthetics though. Their Surface line isn't cheap OEM plastic competing on margins - the industrial design is superb and so is the build quality.

On the software design end, Apple's is starting to slip. People call iOS7 flat and say it eliminated skewmorphism, that's not even accurate. Half of it is flat, the other half is full of gradients and drop shadows and non-flat elements like parallax, they eliminated some skewmorphism but introduced new ones, there's no consistency. Only thing consistent is they overloaded on the color white.

With Xbox, that's the way the entire console industry monetizes. Take a loss on hardware to get it in as many homes as possible, make the money back through licensing and first party titles, and every few years later release a cheaper version of the hardware with commoditized parts that can actually pull in a profit. Even Nintendo, which has historically released underpowered hardware to pull a hw profit at the very beginning, had to adopt this model for the Wii U.

Quote:
The last time Microsoft invested in style they gave us this:
Love it or hate it, they invested heavily in their Metro design language which is the flattest UI design on the market and is now pretty much consistent across all their major product lines. Their peripherals are also heavily marketed for style - they've put out blades with limited edition designs, reskinned existing lines like the wedge and arc touch with vapormg, etc.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by zbarvian View Post
I don't see why they can't just make an infinite-purpose blank "blade" that transforms into anything an application requires of it. Think of it as a large, programmable touchscreen that can shapeshift into a keyboard, that DJ cover, a Courier-like companion, a surface for pen input, or whatever. I'd buy that, and I'm sure developers would go crazy over it.
I saw an reddit thread where a lot of people wanted this. I know their newest Touch Covers have something like 1000+ touch sensors. That should make a blank slate cover hypothetically possible to program through an SDK.
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Old Sep 30, 2013, 04:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquorpuki View Post
Compared to Apple, every company is second-rate with design. Apple's design ethos is second to none, particularly in industrial hardware design. I wouldn't rule out MS's design aesthetics though. Their Surface line isn't cheap OEM plastic competing on margins - the industrial design is superb and so is the build quality.

On the software design end, Apple's is starting to slip. People call iOS7 flat and say it eliminated skewmorphism, that's not even accurate. Half of it is flat, the other half is full of gradients and drop shadows and non-flat elements like parallax, they eliminated some skewmorphism but introduced new ones, there's no consistency. Only thing consistent is they overloaded on the color white.

With Xbox, that's the way the entire console industry monetizes. Take a loss on hardware to get it in as many homes as possible, make the money back through licensing and first party titles, and every few years later release a cheaper version of the hardware with commoditized parts that can actually pull in a profit. Even Nintendo, which has historically released underpowered hardware to pull a hw profit at the very beginning, had to adopt this model for the Wii U.



Love it or hate it, they invested heavily in their Metro design language which is the flattest UI design on the market and is now pretty much consistent across all their major product lines. Their peripherals are also heavily marketed for style - they've put out blades with limited edition designs, reskinned existing lines like the wedge and arc touch with vapormg, etc.

----------



I saw an reddit thread where a lot of people wanted this. I know their newest Touch Covers have something like 1000+ touch sensors. That should make a blank slate cover hypothetically possible to program through an SDK.
I have to agree with a lot of this. Apple is seriously losing it in terms of their software design. Previously they were lagging in terms of software functionality, but the design was fine IMO. But with the atrocity that is iOS7, that AWFUL off-white on white theme, now they are lagging in both software functionality and software design.

Metro, on the other hand, has become the new "simple" functional design IMO. Flat, lots of updating info at a glance, truly functional and IMO pretty as well. iOS has the same icons they have had since the beginning, they show no information at all, I'm kinda surprised the weather icon doesn't perpetually say it's 70 and sunny anymore, that's a prime example of how functionless iOS was "at a glance". Androids widgets are also very functional, and customizable. So widgets versus flat information tiles, versus...static icons, it's not hard to see who is falling behind.

The other area of innovation is things like the surface keyboards. Here is where we cue the Apple cries of "the ipad has aftermarket keyboards, that's not innovation". But if we heed the lamentations of the Apple faithful who say innovation is simply having the genius to repackage something into a very marketable package, which is what the iphone and ipad are, then clearly MS has innovated IMO.
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Old Sep 30, 2013, 11:18 PM   #6
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That Microsoft never even hinted at these things shows how far they've slipped. Comments sections on sites covering the surface 1 unveiling were asking the same things and wondering where the sick covers were. E-ink, wacom, monitor, etc. They suck. Missed opportunities are the name of the game at Microsoft nowadays.
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