Who is Ballmer having dinner with?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed the Surface’s sales debut with The Wall Street Journal, saying, “Numerically there’s not really much that’s interesting to report.” But that’s not why this article is compelling. At one point, Ballmer shares this story with Journal writer Shira Ovide:

“I was at a dinner in San Francisco last week, and I brought out this beautiful, very thin [touch-screen] laptop, and they said, ‘Wow, I never thought touch could be valuable and important in a laptop.'”

Who talks like that? “I never thought touch could be valuable and important in a laptop.” Answer: nobody.

The New York Times on pricing the Microsoft Surface

Nick Wingfield of the New York Times explores Microsoft’s sticky wicket: how to price the Surface tablet:

“When Motorola introduced its Xoom tablet, based on Google’s Android operating system, early last year, it priced the cheapest model without a wireless contract at $800. It steadily discounted the Xoom after that, but it never caught on.

The cheapest PlayBook from Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, was the same price as the iPad. It, too, fizzled and is now on sale for as little as $199.”

Also:

“One big expense for Microsoft’s PC partners traditionally has been the licensing fee they pay for Windows. Microsoft could, in theory, forgo those licensing fees to itself with Surface to offer a cheaper tablet.

But that would create another problem for Microsoft. If it took that path, the company might undercut its license-paying hardware partners, making it difficult for any other company to get traction in the Windows tablet business.”

I’m so interested to see how Microsoft will price these things. I assume it won’t make the mistake of “chasing Apple” again, having learned lessons from the Zune’s failure. The Surface’s potential is compelling.

Oh, Gizmodo

When Microsoft announced the Surface tablet this week, I was disappointed to see so many Apple fans bashing the device without having laid a finger on one. It’s embarassing. Even the select journalists who received brief, hands-on demos weren’t permitted to explore the Surface freely. No one has enough information to declare it a success for failure. The bashing was premature to say the least.

Also premature is declaring the iPad obsolete as a result of Microsoft’s announcement. In a post entitled, “Microsoft Surface Just Made the MacBook Air and the iPad Look Obsolete,” Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz has done just that:

“Surface just bumped the MacBook Air and the iPad to the back seat, and it did so by hewing tightly to everything that Apple’s Jonny (sic) Ive holds dear…Microsoft is the underdog and has the freedom that only someone with nothing to lose can afford. I wonder if Apple would be bold and continue to innovate instead of just living from Job’s heritage.”

That’s premature, Jesus. And you spelled “Jony” incorrectly. Embarrassing.