The Surface Pro 3 may be the best laptop replacement we’ve seen yet, but it all began with the mess of plastic, magnets, and electrical tape you see above. During Microsoft Ignite this week, the company peeled back the curtain to show us a glimpse of the creative process that went in to creating the first Surface.
During the talk, entitled Microsoft Surface: product making, Microsoft’s Surface design team lead Ralf Groene shared a few images of the very first concepts that led to the tablet.
Early concepts, according to Groene, were unsatisfying as they were just black slabs that looked like any other tablet. After a little more development, however, the company came up with the kickstand and the flat magnet-attached keyboard.
That basic design was enough for Steven Sinofksy, Microsoft’s former Windows chief and the driving force behind Windows 8, to approve development of the Surface. And the rest, as they say, is history.
All the tablet’s a stage
Except that wasn’t the only tidbit Groene shared about the initial Surface concept. He also said that Microsoft’s goal with the Surface was to treat the tablet as a stage where the software could perform.
“Everything that we wanted to design we wanted to dissolve away and to make room for the software experience,” Groene said.
The company deliberately avoided adding a lot of design accents so that the focus would remain on the software. Peripheral additions such as the kickstand and the keyboard were meant to disappear when not in use so they wouldn’t take away from what was happening on the display.
Whether the company actually achieved their goals is arguable. The original Surface was something of a visual novelty precisely due to the kickstand and the Type/Touch Cover. PCWorld’s review of the Surface RT (the first Surface device to hit store shelves) spent a good chunk of time talking about the kickstand—and its satisfying click.
However, we did find you never had to wrestle with the keyboard cover due to the lack of “finicky connection points.” You just clipped it in when you needed it and pulled it away when you didn’t.
Why this matters: Groene’s talk provides a fascinating glimpse into how Microsoft thinks of hardware. It should be little surprise the company wants to highlight software, which is Microsoft’s bread and butter. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting reminder of what Microsoft is trying to achieve overall: Sell cloud-backed software and services that run on any device whether it’s a Windows tablet, an Android phone, or a Mac. The device, whatever it is, just isn’t as important as the software running on it in Microsoft’s vision.
Groene’s peek at the early days of the Surface is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to information dished out during the talk. Check out the video above for the full talk and a deeper look into the world of Surface.
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.