The new Surface tablet could put the hurt on Apple ( AAPL) and Google ( GOOG). That's not hyperbole. If Microsoft properly attacks heading into the holiday season, it sets itself up to change the game throughout 2013 and beyond. It needs to work aggressively to get the following things right.
Even when I am serious with TellMe, it rarely produces anything more than a basic local Bing search on commands such as a "Find an Italian restaurant." And Bing's local feature flat-out stinks. Why doesn't TellMe route the user to the superior "Local Scout" app featured on my Lumia? When I asked for "directions to LAX," it spit out a completely useless Bing search. For these common requests, TellMe has to do something other than waste my time. Second, Microsoft needs to straighten out its App Marketplace. Like TellMe, it stinks. While it's not the end of the world -- you can still get what you need quickly and easily, especially if you know your way around a smartphone -- it's attention to detail that makes Apple the pioneering leader it is. When I look for apps on my Lumia, I have to search through absolute garbage to get to popular and useful apps I might actually want to download. And because the Surface tablet will use the Windows Marketplace as its app store, it better improve exponentially between now and launch. Case in point: when you view the list of apps the Lumia places under "Music," you get nothing but junk. You have to scroll for far too long before something like Spotify or Slacker shows up. I gave up, manually searched for "Spotify" and "Slacker" and downloaded them to my phone. Worse yet, Pandora ( P) is not even available. And the popular apps Windows Phone does have lack. The Facebook ( FB) app it delivers is an embarrassment. I have seen Windows supporters boast about how many apps Microsoft has in the Windows Marketplace. Microsoft must not run this race. Focus on quality, not quantity. I would rather have the 500 most popular apps -- expertly polished -- than thousands of inferior apps that do nothing but keep me from what I am looking for. Here's hoping Microsoft is on the phone with companies like Pandora asking for an app and strong developers asking for better apps before Windows 8-based smartphones and the Surface tablet hits the market.
When you fire up your Windows machine, it needs to automatically introduce you to the ease and efficacy of integrating with other Windows devices. It needs to make you want to integrate and feel like you're missing out on cutting edge, but easy-to-use, unintimidating technology. It's one thing to talk the game of going cross-platform with SmartGlass and Surface, but Microsoft needs to drive that point home the second you boot up any Windows device.