NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Does Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report new tablet portend good times or gloom?

Obviously, no one knows if the Surface, which aims to compete with


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iPad and


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Fire is going to sell.


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Research in Motion



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have already failed. But there are two initially important factors to consider and most media efforts -- including The Wall Street Journal's "Microsoft Unveils Surface Tablet to Rival iPad " -- miss both.

For one, we hear a lot about various Surface features, from the keyboard to kickstand. But how long did these journalists who are pontificating about this new product actually have their hands on it? The Journal is vague, saying only that Microsoft "showed off" the product. What does that mean? The answer is important because you can't get an adequate sense of a keyboard, resolution, apps or general ease-of-use without playing around with the tablet for a while.

Though the Journal failed to clue us in, CNNMoney did: "Microsoft didn't allow the press much time with the device -- those at the company's launch event were given just a few minutes to pick it up, toy around with it and flip through some of the screens."

If the media didn't have adequate time with the Surface, take anything you hear about it at this point (positive or negative) with a high degree of caution. Beyond that, the Journal did not mention a central early factor that could make sales tricky.

The New York Times filled us in: "One thing that will most likely limit sales of the tablet is Microsoft's initial plan to sell it only in the company's own retail stores, along with its Web store. Microsoft has opened 20 stores, and five more are coming soon."

These are not merely (sorry!) surface items -- and should be mentioned prominently.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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