Report from the Panos Panay Microsoft Store Surface event

someoneinwa

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I dropped by the Seattle Microsoft Store this evening for the first of the Surface 2 meet and greet events with team leader Panos Panay. About 120 or so were there with me crowded around the classroom area in the store and around a table filled with a wide selection of hors de ouvers and soft drinks. A lot of the people stayed for all of Panay's one hour talk but some wandered in and out of the area, checking out the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro models on display. Panay was accompanied to this event by Microsoft researcher Stevie Bathiche who spoke about the changes to Touch and Type Covers and the changes to the quality of the screens in the two devices. Panay talked about the manufacturing process for the devices and the team goals for the version 2 Surfaces. I loved this level of detail about how they went from using 3 pieces of VaporMG material in construction of Surface RT to just 2 in Surface 2 but I don't know how many other people were as interested in that. Panay described Surface 2 as essentially a single piece "bucket" in which they now insert all of the electronics and screen. He talked about the speed increases and the camera improvements much as he did at the launch event. He vividly demonstrated the use case for the Surface that CEO Steve Ballmer presented to him. Laying flat on the floor of the store, Panay propped a Surface on his stomach with the kickstand out and keyboard connected and started typing on it. This, he said, was one of the ways Ballmer likes to use his device. The 22 degree angle of the kickstand made the Surface visibly wobble while typing. The new 44 degree setting significantly stabilizes the device.

He also discussed the Surface 2 Pro and the improvements in that model and its power and popularity, but by far most of the discussion was on the Surface 2. He went over the services component of the devices- the SkyDrive and Skype features and noted that the press seemed to gloss over these items. Panay believes these services add substantial value to the Surface product that no competitor can match.

Panay and Bathiche answered a number of questions covering further details about the two devices. They clearly enjoyed themselves in the friendly crowd, grabbing a Surface RT that one attendee had with him to demonstrate the differences between the Surface RT and 2, making fun of another viewer's Mac Book Pro and being seemingly ready to disassemble another viewer's Sony Vaio hybrid to see how it worked. Panay laughed about the grief he got from the press for inventing the word "lapability."

I was able to ask Panay to expand on his comment about the popularity of the Surface Pro. I noted he had made that claim in the launch event and at least some tech bloggers had expressed disbelief. He said "all things being relative, there is no question the Pro sold something like 12 times more units than anything in its class, by which I mean units $899 and up." In other words, the Surface Pro didn't sell by iPad numbers, but among high end Ultra Book quality devices, the Pro sold far better than the rest. I asked Bathiche if the most commonly missed key on the first Touch Cover was the spacebar. It is the one I miss most often, followed by "A." He confirmed it was and talked about how the new Touch Cover will reduce that problem. He also demonstrated a few of the gestures that are possible on the new Touch Cover: two finger swiping allows you to control the edit cursor on a page and another gesture that allows selecting and deleting text.

The event ended with a raffle of Microsoft Store gift cards, including a $500 grand prize and lots of time to mingle to further talk with Panay and Bathiche and to touch and use the two Surface devices as well as examine several of the accessories. Touch and Type Covers (not the new versions) were given out to those who wanted them, autographed if desired.

All in all it was a nice event. Panay is a genuine guy, clearly believing his team has created great products that are even better in version two. The devices and accessories are, just as with the first generation, well made and attractive. The Surface 2 I played was faster and demonstrated no lag in swiping the Start Screen back and forth and up and down. Bing apps I started launched without showing those annoying "busy" circles which I frequently see on my Surface RT. When I used a second Surface 2 and started the same apps, I did see the circles and tried to get Panay's attention. Before I could catch his eye, I decided to see if there were other apps running and sure enough, the previous user had started and left running 4 or 5 apps. I closed them all and then tried my test again and the apps launched this time without the circles. The Surface 2 devices are clearly improvements over version 1 and I agree with Panay that the SkyDrive and Skype services included represent real added value. Events like this one probably have a tendency to "preach to the choir" but I suspect some skeptics went away re-thinking as well. If there is a Microsoft Store near you, I recommend attending.
 
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Pete

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Really nice write up, thanks for posting this. I really do like it when MS people are so enthusiastic about their products.
 

aximtreo

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Has is been prevalent in the past that MS employees are seen and heard at the local MS store. My closest is the store in Scottsdale, AZ and would love to attend get to gathers like this. I have the Surface RT and would love to see it run beside the new Surface 2. Like the idea of the RT being left off the updated unit. Think the will happen to the future WP's as well so one gets to feel like they are one and the same OS.
 

SwimSwim

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Awesome, great to hear news from the front! I plan on attending my local Store's event in the coming weeks, very excited!

I'm curious, how much time/how personal were you able to get with Panay? I've got a massive list of questions for him, and I'd like to knock out as many as possible.

Anyways, looking forward to my Store's event, even if it will be crowded (Facebook page says 200+ signed up, hopefully, there will be lots of no-shows).

But again, thanks for the post, I'm all the more excited to meet one of the masterminds behind Surface!
 

Christian Kallevig

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I doubt you'd get to ask more than one or two questions considering how many people are sure to be there.

Although I wish I could go to one of these things, my local Microsoft Store (at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN) isn't on the list. I think I'll just wait for my Surface to arrive to try one out.
 

SwimSwim

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Thanks for the tip. I plan on prioritizing m list of questions so that my biggest burning questions are addressed first. Again, hope there are a lot of no-shows, because my local Store isn't the largest one around, so trying to fit that many could be an issue.
 

someoneinwa

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Panos took quite a few questions from the crowd during the event. When it was over he said he was staying as long as anyone wanted to talk to him. That might vary from place to place depending on his travel schedule, but I was able to talk to him about Surface Pro sales and ask a couple more questions while waiting to get my hands on one of the Surface 2 models. After playing the with the 2 and checking out the docking station, I chatted with Bathiche for a minute and also a marketing guy who was there and who promised no more dancing ads. I chatted with some store staff for a few minutes while walking out and when I looked back as I was leaving, Panos was still surrounded by people and chatting away. I'll bet he stayed there quite a while. He was clearly enjoying the energy.
 

kittengirl

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Thanks for the write-up; you captured it well. Even though I use a surface pro, since running PhotoShop is important to me, I ended up reserving a Surfac2 for travel and casual use. That's how good a job he did LOL.
 

blehblehbleh

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Thanks for the tip. I plan on prioritizing m list of questions so that my biggest burning questions are addressed first. Again, hope there are a lot of no-shows, because my local Store isn't the largest one around, so trying to fit that many could be an issue.

If you would, please tell them to include back lighting in the power cover or perhaps why the decision to not upgrade the Pro 2's camera like they did with Surface 2.
 

SwimSwim

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If you would, please tell them to include back lighting in the power cover or perhaps why the decision to not upgrade the Pro 2's camera like they did with Surface 2.

I'll see what he has to say about the power cover, and the camera situation is one of my top concerns.

And it appears some of my questions are being answered already, such as the dancing ads.looks like I'm on track to having I'm all answered after all.

Thanks all.
 

Jazmac

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There is a Microsoft kiosk (soon to be a full out Microsoft store) here in Vegas and I had the chance to put hands on the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro. Pure lightning. If you think MS doesn't have great engineers, the Surface 2 and Pro will change your mind. The Surface 2 makes my RT look older than it really is. We have the Surface 2 Pro on order. A must have.
 

Christian Kallevig

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That's fantastic to hear. I can't wait to get my hands on mine in a few weeks. With the performance frustrations of the original gone I will be able to comfortably take it everywhere in place of my laptop.

I do wish it could run Java though as I really would like to play Minecraft on it. But that's not a huge deal
 

SwimSwim

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That's fantastic to hear. I can't wait to get my hands on mine in a few weeks. With the performance frustrations of the original gone I will be able to comfortably take it everywhere in place of my laptop.

I do wish it could run Java though as I really would like to play Minecraft on it. But that's not a huge deal

Java would be amazing. Perhaps in a similar function to Flash, where it only runs on trusted sites? Could be very useful, and help adoption.

To be honest, the fact it lacks Java is about 30% of the reason I'm opting for the Pro. There are several things I do online that wouldn't work on a Surface 2 due to lack of Java.
 

Keith Wallace

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Not to say he's lying or anything, but how can Panay say with certainty that the Surface Pro outsold all ultraportables 12 times over? Do OEMs send him sales figures for all devices? I mean, I agree that the Surface Pro offers a potentially-better experience than non-hybrid ultraportables, but I don't know that its sub-four hour battery life woudl have sold a whole lot of people that it was superior than the options from Dell (XPS 12), Lenovo (IdeaPad Yoga), and ASUS (VivoTab).

Regardless, thanks for giving us that write-up, and I hope he is right, because the Surface Pro is something that deserves to succeed.
 

Keith Wallace

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Java would be amazing. Perhaps in a similar function to Flash, where it only runs on trusted sites? Could be very useful, and help adoption.

To be honest, the fact it lacks Java is about 30% of the reason I'm opting for the Pro. There are several things I do online that wouldn't work on a Surface 2 due to lack of Java.

I'd think Microsoft is trying to get Mojgan to port over their 360 version of Minecraft to the Windows and/or Windows Phone markets. I don't think THAT is written in Java, is it?
 

Keith Wallace

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So, is he going on some kind of tour with the Surface devices, and do we know where all he's heading to? I don't live near any Microsoft Stores, the closest being the St. Louis one, which is 1.5-2 hours of driving away. If he came there over a weekend, I'd be interested in stopping by and checking stuff out.
 

Christian Kallevig

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I'd think Microsoft is trying to get Mojgan to port over their 360 version of Minecraft to the Windows and/or Windows Phone markets. I don't think THAT is written in Java, is it?

They haven't shown much interest in that though, and even if they did I want the real deal. Besides Java support would be useful for a number of things
 

Jas00555

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They haven't shown much interest in that though, and even if they did I want the real deal. Besides Java support would be useful for a number of things

since there's Minecraft for the Xbox and the new Xbox supposedly can run Windows 8 apps, wouldn't that mean that Xbox games/apps can run on Windows 8? Then after that, because of similar APIs, run Windows Phone.
 

SwimSwim

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So, is he going on some kind of tour with the Surface devices, and do we know where all he's heading to? I don't live near any Microsoft Stores, the closest being the St. Louis one, which is 1.5-2 hours of driving away. If he came there over a weekend, I'd be interested in stopping by and checking stuff out.

Indeed, WPC actually posted about it. Info on how to sign up, as well as the stores they're hitting, available at: http://www.windowscentral.com/meet-panos-panay-and-see-new-surface-2
 

Cleavitt76

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They haven't shown much interest in that though, and even if they did I want the real deal. Besides Java support would be useful for a number of things

Java support would be problematic for Modern UI apps. I think it's probably a no go. In programming, it's sometimes just easier to recode an application to "native code" than it is to deal with all the extra layers of software required to make a non-native app work. Java is actually infamous for it's cross platform inconsistency.

As you probably know, Modern UI apps are intended to be run and just work on any of the MS platforms. That includes a full 'unlocked' OS like Windows 8 or Server 2012 as well as 'lightweight' OSs like Windows RT and perhaps the Xbox One OS or Windows Phone at some point in the future. As such, the APIs for Modern UI apps are sort of intentionally limited to the lowest common denominator. Also, the MS based Modern UI programming technology (mostly parts of .Net) is something that MS can control to ensure that unsafe or unreliable apps can't get into the Windows Store (something expected by users in the tablet app world).

If MS were to implement Java in Modern UI apps it would have to be only the parts of the Java framework that are appropriate just like the current tools are a subset of the standard .Net framework. If they didn't do that, the support of a full Java runtime would basically open a door to allow developers to go outside of what the lightweight OSs might be capable of doing or what is appropriate. It would create a situation where some Modern UI apps would work on one platform, but not another. It would also create security issues because Modern UI apps are supposed to be 'sandboxed' in various ways and a full Java runtime would be interacting with things outside the security sandbox.

Neither approach is very good. A limited "Modern UI compliant" Java runtime would not guarantee that code could be ported over easily since a lot of existing apps would be referencing parts that don't and can't exists. The existing Java programming tools would let you write and compile code that won't actually run on a special limited runtime. A full Java runtime would cause even more issues for security and compatibility.

Who knows, maybe MS will develop a Java interpreter/emulator/runtime of some kind, but that seems like a long shot to me. I think they should focus on making the best programming tools and technology (MS excels at this) for their own platform so that apps can be ported or written from scratch with consistency and high quality.
 

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