NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft's ( MSFT) introduction of its Surface tablet raises some troubling questions. Yes, the Surface tablet also has some intriguing positive potential, but we really have to deal with the negatives first:1. Timing Why the hurry in announcing the product now? The ARM -- Nvidia ( NVDA) -- version of the Surface tablet will ship in the fall, presumably October, while the Intel ( INTC) version will ship three months thereafter -- presumably January.
3. Business or pleasure? This gets to the fundamental weakness about the Surface tablet. Is it primarily an entertainment device, such as the iPad -- or is it a hard-core business productivity device, such as almost any Windows laptop? Let me tell you why it's fair to ask that question: Microsoft made a big deal out of the Surface having a full USB port, a built-in stand so you can have it tilted like a normal laptop, as well as two seemingly very elegant keyboards. These items all suggest that this Surface tablet is positioned to be your new hard-core business laptop replacement. Hey, it even runs Microsoft Office, of course, unlike -- cough, cough -- the iPad. Here is where that "business class" argument falls apart: It's almost all about size, actually. Ask yourself what's the smallest laptop you want to use if you are using it all the time for work? The basic limitations here are (1) screen size and (2) keyboard size. I find that anything smaller than an 11.6 inch display becomes a nightmare to use, even for relatively short periods of time; 12.1 inches are better. The Microsoft tablet is 10.6 inches. In other words, I could not even dream about using it to replace any laptop -- and I use regular Windows laptops, Apple MacBook laptops as well as Google Chromebook laptops. The screen being only 10.6 inches is a non-starter. What about the keyboard? The new Microsoft keyboards that are made specifically for the Surface tablet may be very innovative, but they are limited by the size of the tablet, which is in turn decided by the 10.6 display. In other words, unless there is some other magic going on here, the keyboards would appear to be too small. This is the other non-starter for serious all-the-time professional work.
Considering this new Surface laptop, it immediately brings to mind what Apple CEO Tim Cook said on the last Apple earnings call, two months ago. He said that it was really hard to combine a productivity device such as a laptop, with an entertainment device such as a tablet. He said it was a little bit like trying to merge a fridge with a toaster. I appreciated the argument then, but with the launch of the Microsoft Surface I now appreciate his argument even more.