Failure culture is not something you can find anywhere. Most businesses will expect a win right off the start. Really smart businesses will focus on failure: what, when, why, who failed. Then encourage their teams to analyze the failure; correct mistakes and re-launch. Focus on the long run. Companies these days are too focused on what will Wall Street say or think about this or that… reality is that what’s best for a company in the short term may not necessarily be in line with the company’s long term strategy or even long term survival. Wall Street seems to be looking only at the short term and making a quick buck off anything that can be highlighted as “trendy”.
Microsoft is aimed at the process of continually improving products by using Agile methodology. I have been a witness of this change in Redmond and it has been in place for at least several years now. Rapid development and releasing of products has now forced all other departments to also change their mindsets. All of the company is in line, something extremely difficult to achieve.
It is said that it takes Microsoft three versions to get things right.
Don’t get hung up on the negative aspect. Why should a company release the initial two version of a product to get to a successful third one? If you are asking yourself this, then you may be missing the point. That third version cannot happen without the user’s input about the two first versions. While you may have the ability to work in secret and do plenty of focus groups behind closed doors, you will never experience the raw input you will get from users, supporters, detractors and even the public in general. All that input is useful and does build up the needs for change, improvement and eventually success of the product.
Having launched a few years back, it took to the third version of the Surface line to become a really good product. The Surface line was taken both as an insult by the industry that prefers cheap over quality and a joke by the press that reveres design over function.
So after that third product generation and the success that Microsoft was having, the whole industry has decided to simply copy Microsoft’s Surface design. All the major OEMs have a form of “tablet with a case keyboard” solution at this point. Some are good alternate solutions to the same need that Surface addresses. Even Apple has announced the iPad Pro: a large iPad with a keyboard case. This validates how innovative and ahead of the pack Microsoft was but this did not distract Microsoft from its own continuous improvement.
Microsoft knew they had a winner product. So they kept improving it. Almost all negatives and claims placed on the first version were eliminated for version 3. Some still had a few comments left about how loud the fan was, how often it kicked in, that the keyboard was not meant for extended use or even that the trackpad on the keyboard was not as good as it should.
And the Surface Pro 4 (announced October 6 and available October 26) addressed all these issues.
But the benefits of continuous improvement don’t have to stop here. Microsoft has come to a pretty awesome; functionally complete and aesthetically pleasing design. The optimum balance between form and function. Yet as a convertible tablet it is great to those who will use it as a tablet or a laptop… but, these concepts are still at odds. Your laptop is intended to have a larger screen, a more comfortable keyboard and a tablet cannot be as large, it would be too clunky and defeat the purpose of portability.
And so, Microsoft introduced a laptop: the Surface Book.
As much as the Surface Pro is “the tablet that can replace your laptop”, this is the laptop that can replace your tablet. In other words, this is a solution for the opposite problem. If you want your main computing device to be a tablet, but you still need to use a laptop with all the processing and capabilities of one, then you can use a Surface Pro. If you need to have a laptop and occasionally use it as a tablet, then what you need is a Surface Book. The first one is mainly a tablet that functions like a laptop, the other is mainly a laptop that has a screen that can be detached into a tablet for temporary use. By attacking the pending issues from a completely opposite point of view, Microsoft established the ground rules for laptop design of the future. Users no longer need to make compromises in their choice or even have to purchase both a laptop AND a tablet. Depending on what you normally do the most, you can now have that no-compromise product that can cover for both.
The whole Surface line is as innovative as the PC will ever be. A true success that is deeply rooted in continuous improvement.