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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft "Surface" Sucks

Posted by on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 9:52 AM

The Microsoft Surface tablet introduced yesterday looks like a compelling product, and backed by the marketing muscle of the Redmond giant it will no doubt become an instant competitor. I'll get to some deeper thoughts on the product later, but first a rather OCD observation about the name. I hate it.

Phonetically, "surface" is a soft word, composed of three unvoiced fricatives (produced by the "s," "f," and "c") wrapped around the approximant consonant "r." Take a look at Microsoft's other product names and you'll find very few without at least one plosive ("p," "t," "k," "b," "d," "g"); in fact the only one that comes to mind is Office.

Now look at Surface's competitors: iPad, Galaxy, Kindle, Nook, Playbook. Chock full of plosives. There's a reason for that, even if the namers weren't entirely conscious of the reason why. These names explode from the mouth driven by the plosives within them. They make an impression.

Surface's comparative disadvantage is only exaggerated when used in the plural or possessive, adding yet another unvoiced "s" and a whole extra syllable, whereas the other product names merely tack the "s" onto the end, fully voiced (as a "z" sound) in the case of iPads, Galaxies, and Kindles.

And as a consumer product, Microsoft's habit of trademarking conversational English doesn't help dig the Surface out of the phonetic hole it finds itself in. Imagine talking about "Surfaces" in the same way we talk about "iPads," as in: "I use my Surface all the time." The implicit meaning in a product name should be something that helps you build your brand, not something that needs to be overcome over time.

Critics ridiculed Apple when it introduced the iPad, but it's an easy, memorable, plosive-filled word to say that modifies a familiar object—a pad—with all the inherent meaning Apple's ubiquitous lowercase "i" brings with it after more than a decade of relentless marketing. (Also, iPad was the obvious choice for the iPod maker despite the easy joke about feminine napkins.)

But with Surface, Microsoft is starting from scratch, competing with the other common uses of the word, and burdened by phonetics that just don't roll off the tongue.

In my opinion, the name just sucks.


Comments (51) RSS

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yelahneb 1
Oh come now - the name isn't *that* bad. Save your criticism for the fact that they haven't announced either a price or a ship date, and that it will probably be awful.
Posted by yelahneb on June 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM · Report this
"Ladies and gentlemen, we present: the Microsoft Pigfucker."
Posted by lol chikinburd on June 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Goldy 3
@1: Everybody's bitching about the lack of price and ship date. This is my own unique value-add that comes from my years of writing lyrics and other rhyming verse, and my authorship of a rhyming dictionary. "Surface" is a very weak word.
Posted by Goldy on June 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Goldy 4
@2: That at least would be memorable.
Posted by Goldy on June 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Erin Resso 5
Also, that has been the operating name of their table-like touchscreen computers for the past 5 years or so.
Posted by Erin Resso on June 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Seattleites loooove to hate on Microsoft.
Posted by Amanda on June 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM · Report this
Oh, Goldy hates something. That's new.
Posted by pkbrown on June 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Seriously though, Surface is a pretty safe choice. I'm guessing the marketing department is still a bit butt-hurt after the failure of the Zune product line.
Posted by Nezz on June 19, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 9
@ 6, Microsoft is very easy to hate. But I think that this is one of those times that Goldy should remind everyone that he's an Apple investor, which isn't something one can reasonably expect every reader of Slog to remember (let alone someone who happens to find it after googling "Microsoft Surface").
Posted by Matt from Denver on June 19, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Report this
At the very least the title of this post desperately needs revision. I generally like Goldy, but this whole thing is weak - and by deliberately making a whine about Microsoft's choice of a product name look like it's got something to say about the actual product Goldy is just being obnoxious.
Posted by Warren Terra on June 19, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Report this
Goldy 11
@9: Yes, I hold a few AAPL shares in my IRA. And the only reason you know that is that I've repeatedly disclosed it when writing about Apple.

And FYI, my lede describes the Surface as a "compelling product" and an "instant competitor." If this is Microsoft hating I'm not doing a very good job.
Posted by Goldy on June 19, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Report this
I think your point is well made. Even though you are talking just about the name it is a symptom of MS's overall problem, despite sitting on billions of dollars, they just don't know how to connect with the consumer.

That sounds just like a certain presidential candidate.
Posted by kmq1 on June 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
rejemy 13
Man, sloggers sure are allergic to any form of critique of anything.
Posted by rejemy on June 19, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 14
@ 11, I'm not accusing you of Microsoft hating. @ 6 is. My comment response there was to assure @ 6 that one need not be a hipster, Seattle resident, or both to hate Microsoft.

I know that this is a subject on which you're pretty fair, Goldy, but there's no reason to believe, expect, or demand that everyone know or accept that.
Posted by Matt from Denver on June 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Report this
hungryjonny 15
Surface is just a reference model for Windows 8 tablets packaged like a retail product. It's not a "killer" product, but it'll shoehorn them into the tablet space where their OEMs pick up the slack. The real money in the mobile space is in software (app) sales, and Microsoft's strategy is the same as Google's: set benchmarks on the product level, complete on the platform level.

So in the end the name doesn't matter. Windows 8 is the product you're really buying.
Posted by hungryjonny on June 19, 2012 at 10:30 AM · Report this
Ya gotta pronounce it the MS way, though - it's an Ace to Surf with - the SurfAce. It's the pronunciation that'll sweep the nation!
Posted by gloomy gus on June 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this
@2: Poor choice. Would be indistinguishable from a number of other Microsoft products.
Posted by butterw on June 19, 2012 at 10:41 AM · Report this
terrence 18
*massive facepalm* this is why apple has a hand up on the competition. people place things like name, marketing, and how shiny it is over things like functionality and price.

how about discussing something a little less superfluous as its name and stick to what it actually does :l
Posted by terrence on June 19, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
chinaski 19
A post I can agree with. MS needs an entire rebrand and they should call themselves Xbox, with all products beginning with the letter x. They should run a cocksure and violent marketing campaign essentially calling out Apple to duke it out toe to toe in a bareknuckle street brawl.
"The Xpad from Xbox."
Posted by chinaski on June 19, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Fnarf 20
This is the worst article about a piece of technology ever written.
Posted by Fnarf on June 19, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Who the hell pluralizes "surface" with an unvoiced /s/? If you're going to critique a name based on phonological factors, at least do your goddamned homework first.
Posted by tired and true on June 19, 2012 at 10:45 AM · Report this
terrence 22
@20 - *standing ovation*
Posted by terrence on June 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 23
What Erin Eusso said. Its a name that creates a link to their demonstration tabletop displays. It is purely a long-rangr marketing move ro keep that name (and concept) alive in case their tabletop displays ever enter the consumer market.

Branding 101.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on June 19, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
@20, I like it! It answers a question I didn't know was in the back of my mind: "what kind of thing might Goldy post if he got super high?"
Posted by gloomy gus on June 19, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Report this
DOUG. 25
Surface is better than Butterface.
Posted by DOUG. on June 19, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Report this
The good news is that Goldy is sticking to the only part of technology he should be writing about, based on his track record.

Frankly, in technology the name is irrelevant if the product is outstanding. @2's suggestion would be just fine.

Posted by bigyaz on June 19, 2012 at 10:54 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 27
What @18 said.

"I bought my computer because it's a pretty turquoise color and it has a cute name and all my friends have one"

"Um, does it work well?"

"I dunno... but look! It has a picture of an apple on the screen! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!"

Posted by Urgutha Forka on June 19, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this
> "Ladies and gentlemen, we present: the Microsoft Pigfucker."

...and, now that he's been introduced, Steve Ballmer shows the crowd the new product.
Posted by rainbird on June 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
sloegin 29
Surface is only as silly as any iName for some iRandom iProduct that comes from a iFruit iBranded iComputer iStore. Look for more silly product names in the future as the world runs out of trademarks.
Posted by sloegin on June 19, 2012 at 11:13 AM · Report this
Surface was chosen because of the Surf, when it's launched it'll be the Surfboard.
Posted by Daniel J on June 19, 2012 at 11:18 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 31
2 suggestions full of plosives:

Microsoft Cock
Microsoft Cunt
Posted by Max Solomon on June 19, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this
32 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Heh I'm glad I actually read the post because that was an interesting non-technical take on things. I think I agree?

Who made fun of iPads? I don't think, "It's like an iPhone but 4x bigger," qualifies as making fun. And not a single person made fun of the Airs (beyond their lack of ports, which is a physical reality if you want a computer that small).

Although I'd never buy one because I like my iPad2 and am like $500 invested into the app store, it seems interesting and I look forward to ignoring it and Apple stealing anything cool about it for iPads.

I do not look forward to MS pretending the OS that runs on that and the OS that runs on your PC desktop should be an apples to apples comparison -- it isn't and everything I have read about Windows 8 makes me not look forward to it so far.
Posted by Swearengen on June 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this
Kinison 34
Someone get Goldy to a tanning salon, the mushrooms he took is tripping him out. He'll need some UV Rays to get some balance and calm down.
Posted by Kinison on June 19, 2012 at 11:31 AM · Report this
SpecialBrew 35
It's 2012 can we drop the "cool kids like Apple" posturing and get a real technology guy or girls' review?

The Stranger one this looks like teenaged brats who are still debating with Coke or Pepsi is cool. The rest of us have grown up.
Posted by SpecialBrew on June 19, 2012 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Kinison 36
The reason why they havent announced a ship date, is because its supposed to coincide with the release of Windows 8, which they have yet to announce. Most assume it will be August or September, with the x86 tablet being 3 months later, which is just time for the holiday shopping season, but barely.

They did mention this in last nights press release.
Posted by Kinison on June 19, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
treacle 37
Agreed, 'Surface' is dumb. They should call it the "HandWindows"

That solved, I do not look forward to Windows8. This may make me flip over to Linux for good.
Posted by treacle on June 19, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 38
You guys are taking a light, humorous blog post way too seriously.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on June 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Goldy 39
@21: You're right. The "s" at the end of "Surfaces" would most commonly be voiced.

As for the rest of you, geez, way to get your panties in a knot. I don't like the name, okay, and I explained my reasons why. Either refute me or deal with it.
Posted by Goldy on June 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 40
The one working allusion is with....FACEbook.


Right now there is only one game in town.


Anything that hampers access to Facebook -- like high priced or cumbersome hardware -- is kaput.

Anything that enhances Facebook -- is gold.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on June 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
The name reflects a move away from interfacing with boxes & keyboards to enhanced computing surfaces. More than that, they made the entire concept of usable surfaces their trademark. Not only is the name smart: it smarter than Goldy.
Posted by HOT PUSSY on June 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM · Report this
ItsAllOverNow 42
If you remove all the intermediate text from this article keeping only the first paragraph and the last line, you are left with an appropriate amount of words to communicate the authors feeling on this topic.
Posted by ItsAllOverNow on June 19, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Hot damn, Goldy, I know you put a disproportionate amount of your self-worth in the fact that you prefer Apple products to Microsoft's, but you still find ways to surprise me.
Posted by pablo on June 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 44
Please tell me how you feel about the name "Xbox."
Posted by Westlake, son! on June 19, 2012 at 1:34 PM · Report this
@33 many people made fun of the iPad's name, mostly in queries like "when will the iTampon be coming out?"
Posted by tal on June 19, 2012 at 1:57 PM · Report this
schmacky 46
It's just such a subjective point you're making, Goldy. I mean, one could easily argue that the absence of plosives is a selling point, as that phonetically differentiates it from the cacophony of other like-sounding tech gadgets/brands. You are merely expressing a personal opinion about what does and doesn't "roll off the tongue." The whole thing reads like an Onion piece making fun of a particular kind of unthinking, unquestioning Apple device super user (aka, you).
Posted by schmacky on June 19, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Goldy 47
@44: I like Xbox as a product name.
Posted by Goldy on June 19, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
bedipped 48
Thanks for the linguistics insight. The most obvious homonym? Serf Us, Microsoft.
Posted by bedipped on June 19, 2012 at 5:20 PM · Report this
Agree totally that the name surface is terrible. What surface is it referring to? What does one do with a surface; put junk on it? Also agree with @19 that they should have chosen an "X" name. The xbox is the one successful non-windows product. Apple has successfully branded the 'I' and it makes sense.
Posted by stow on June 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM · Report this
The Xurface.

Posted by tkc on June 20, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 51


Zune 2: From the depths of Hades I shall spit at Thee!
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Report this

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