Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, Nick Earls

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson


From June 21, 2012

Part of my series of columns on pub­lish­ing, Writ­ing on the Ether, appear­ing Thurs­days at the invi­ta­tion of Jane Fried­man at JaneFriedman.com


Perfect Skin by Nick EarlsPerfect Skin: A Novel by Nick Earls

A finalist in the 2003 Australian Comedy Awards and adapted into a feature film in Italy (Solo un Padre, Warner Brothers/Cattleya)

“Readers should enjoy this amiable, well-crafted and genuinely romantic book.”

Publishers Weekly

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.

Clear Surface

Even today, so late in the game, on the 2012 summer solstice, when you picture vacationers reading your book, do you find it hard to envision…a tablet?

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, Nick Earls
Microsoft Surface / Microsoft.com

In their hands. Your book. A tablet. An e-reader. A laptop. A phone.

No swizzle-sticky paperback under the towel. No Coppertoned dustcover, as Brian O’Leary wrote this week, “DRM-free since Gutenberg.”

No, a tablet. This is why we pay attention to the bright-shinies. And how ’bout that new Surface tablet/PC that Microsoft introduced Monday? When have both the snot-nerds and the fanboys been so welcoming to the Stuffy Ones from Redmond?

Microsoft Surface Just Made the MacBook Air and the iPad Look Obsolete, chortled Jesus Diaz in his homily at Gizmodo.

Microsoft has guts. It’s what you get when you’re the underdog; either that or you curl into a RIM and die…After yesterday’s Surface event—assuming they don’t fumble the execution—Gates’ children may have found the weapon to stop the heirs of Jobs and turn the tide.

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At the Times, Sam Grobart was working to get Diaz’s head-to-head assumption out of the way, in Microsoft’s Not Competing With the iPad — Not Entirely:

There’s a significant population out there, people who look at an iPad and say, “I like it, but can I get one to replace my laptop? Even for just some of the time?” And the honest answer has always been, “No.” The iPad has plenty of accessories, but it’s not a productivity device.

Matt Rosoff at Business Insider went looking for the rationale behind Why Microsoft Was Forced To Make a Tablet. In fact, two tablets:

At least two models of a new product called Surface. Make no mistake: these are PCs, not just “tablets.” Microsoft does not draw the distinction between PCs and tablets as Apple and other vendors have.

And that’s the point.

While the bright-shiny folks were worrying along about the Surface’s great-looking cover keyboards — and parsing the RT version (lighter operation) vs. the Pro version (to run legacy Windows apps and compete with MacBook Air and Ultrabooks) — others were catching on to a shape, if not the shape, of markets to come.

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Richard Waters of the Financial Times in an interview on CNBC:

What’s happening is the entire personal computing market …is being completely reinvented. The iPad has two-thirds of that market, and nothing has come even close to scratching the (ahem) surface. Microsoft is making an incredible gamble.

CNET’s Scott Stein, also on CNBC:

They’re trying to do what Google has failed at and what BlackBerry and others have failed at, and that’s to create something clear to go against Apple.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, Nick Earls
Microsoft Surface / Microsoft.com


They (Microsoft) are scared…The real problem is that developers creating the most exciting new apps are not doing them for PCs…They (Microsoft) have to spend billions of dollars to get into hardware…(And) when will Microsoft get into smartphones?

Still, it was easy to remain overly focused on the unveiling event.

The big screens, company honchos dressed way down (some shirttails were out!) and pacing around the stage, live-bloggers from all our favorite tech-mania sites. My fave: Dana Wollman for Engadget.

And, sure enough, while Microsoft pulled some praise for updating its announcement modus (the “kids” do love these big old CES-ish spectacles, you know), it was dicey to go out there without pricing or release dates.

Brett Sandusky wrote that UX marked the spot on which Redmond faltered, in When will the Surface surface?

Yeah yeah yeah, specs. Good. Nice. USB. Ooh. Ahh. Cover. Ooh. Ahh. Price? When? Ooh. Cover. Cover. Cover. Typing on the cover. Compete with iPad. Ooh. Ahh. Price? Ok… NOW! Price?


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No, Steve Ballmer and cohorts didn’t name a price — leaving pundits to guess all week, which is tedious. And the best guesses at timing seem to be fall-winter, the Windows 8 Pro Surface following the RT model by three months. In these areas, and in the prototypic sense for the thing, the event was a bit like announcing your startup before it starts up.

But the user experience (that’s “UX,” you know) of the announcement event was less critical than what’s to come when, as Sandusky puts it, the Surface surfaces.

As Quentin Hardy had it in his piece in the Times, Microsoft’s Surface Pro: Sorry, H.P.:

With Microsoft’s new tablet, called Surface, you can finally get Windows Office on something like an iPad.

Catch that? Your Ethernautical UX goes like this:

  • First, we want them selling sunscreen with each unit for beach reading on that baby next summer solstice.
  • And second, yes, Virginia, you can work your manuscript on it. By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea…

As Nick Bilton cinched it in Microsoft Surface Allows People to Create:

The iPad, for all its glory, suffers from one very distinct flaw: It’s very difficult to use for creation. The keyboard on the screen, although pretty to look at, is abysmal for typing anything over 140 characters. There isn’t a built-in pen for note-taking, either…Apple doesn’t seem to want the iPad to be a creator, but more of a consumer. Microsoft, and its new Surface tablet, wants to do both.

Click to read this week’s full Writ­ing on the Ether col­umn at JaneFriedman.com.

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