Reddit.com regularly makes good on its goal to be the front page of the Internet by being the birthplace of many memes as well as an effective aggregator of the world's most interesting stories. Last month, President Barack Obama took advantage of the site's "Ask Me Anything" format -- commonly referred to as an AMA -- to directly answer questions from the Internet, gaining some much-needed positive press. Many since have followed the president's example, and yesterday Microsoft's (MSFT) Surface team held its own AMA to answer questions regarding the tablet's technology and functionality.
Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. PDT, the Surface staff responded to questions from potential Surface adopters. Questions regarding the tablet's ability to compete with the iPad (AAPL) or comments about the Surface's controversial price tag of $700 were largely skipped over, but the team was quick to respond about anything related to design and the Surface's functionality compared to other tablets.
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In one question, a team member named Stevie fielded an inquiry related to the difference in screen resolution between the Surface (1366×768 resolution) and the iPad 3 (2048×1536 resolution). Stevie's response was a massive block of text that detailed why screen resolution was only a part of the equation:
"Most folks just focus on one number out of dozens that effect perceived detail. Without good contrast resolution decreases… With the ClearType Display technology we took a three-pronged approach to maximize that perceived resolution and optimize for battery life, weight, and thickness. First prong, Microsoft has the best pixel rendering technology in the industry (ClearType 1.0 and 2.0) … these are exclusive and unique to Windows, it smooths text regardless of pixel count. Doing a side by side with the new iPad in a consistently lit room, we have had many people see more detail on Surface RT than on the iPad with more resolution."
The team also addressed the tablet's eight-hour battery life and its advanced Wi-Fi capabilities. Another talking point was how easy it will be to type with or without the attachable keyboard/kickstand. The team made multiple posts attesting to the ease of use and functionality, claiming that the Surface experience will be equivalent to that of a PC or a laptop. The system runs all Microsoft Windows 8 applications, for instance. The addition of the kickstand makes it possible to type at speeds of up to 65 words per minute, the team said.
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In one post, a team member said, "I've been using my Surface for a couple of months now. It works on your lap in multiple ways. Typing on the lap works fine, Surface is great for typing while on your couch. There are so many ways it folds and adjusts to your typing needs. You will be pleasantly surprised. :)"
If this is true, it may finally shift the tablet industry away from the expensive novelty category to a legitimate tool for work on-the-go. Theoretically, the device would facilitate working while riding on a bus, or while in a carpool. The tablet's eight-hour battery also strengthens the Surface's potential for such use, as it should enable the long-term use of powerful programs while mobile.
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Just as the mobility of the laptop cut into PCs' usage, Surface tablets threaten to render the laptop obsolete. Other competitors, such as Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle, Samsung's (SSNLF) Galaxy Tab, and Google's (GOOG) Nexus, have yet to embrace such an approach, so maybe the Surface will be able to carve out a niche for itself despite its higher price.
Hopefully, the system's functionality over its competitors will be a major selling point at its October 26 launch. Apple's prospective October 23 launch for the new iPad Mini has already caused analysts to cast doubt on Microsoft's Surface sales potential, but some aggressive press comparing the two systems at their own events could turn Apple's tactic on its head.
Microsoft's presence on Reddit was certainly a creative move, but what matters now is what customers think, which won't be known until the launch date.