'Surface' May Be Only Skin Deep

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Each time I sense that something is being overly hyped and sensationalized, I get nervous. It seems in our constant need for drama and excitement, we latch on to things that may or may not be real -- this is the reason why anticipating the arrival of Christmas is often more exciting than the day itself.

For many frustrated investors of software giant Microsoft ( MSFT) the company's unveiling of its new "Surface" tablet is Christmas in June.

However, for many others, this might just add to the doubt that has accumulated over the last 10 years. I would like to say "don't knock the product until you've tried it," but based on Microsoft's recent history, it's probably best to keep the receipt.

Although the tablet looks good "on the surface," it is hard to imagine that it will be anything close to even the first iteration of Apple's ( AAPL) iPad -- much less the third. First, the OS closely resembles its mobile phone. Last I checked, they are not falling off shelves. Clearly it should be drastically different, but it will forever be compared to the gold standard -- which is the iPad.

This is something that Research in Motion ( RIMM), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Dell ( DELL) have come to realize as their own attempts have failed. The $1 million question is, how will Surface be different from those failures? What will it be able to provide that neither the PlayBook, TouchPad or Streak was unable to offer?

Well the first obvious answer is a unified platform. I think this is one of the advantages that Apple has enjoyed in widening its technological lead. Microsoft will be able to control both the hardware as well as the software.

But will Surface integrate as easily with other PC or even Windows devices? What will Microsoft offer that is similar to iTunes for software installation? Will it be "buggy" like its predecessors and will it come out with its own App store?

Bottom Line

Essentially, these were the main questions that the others were unable to answer. If Microsoft truly wants to be a player and be audacious enough to enter Apple's court and demand the ball, it has to be ready to do something with it when it gets it. As they say, the ball is now in its hands. For its sake, let's hope it doesn't fall to the Surface.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.

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