is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Like me, you may have been dismissive of Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3, which has a bigger, er, surface and is thinner than its predecessor. On specs alone, it sounds somewhat appealing, but the reality is that it sticks to Microsoft’s preferred path of hybridizing tablet and laptop features into one head-scratching form factor. Early reviews seem tepid at best.
What I find interesting though is that Microsoft seems to be making a concerted effort to engage artists and illustrators in its Surface Pro 3 outreach efforts. I’ve seen at least two write-ups of the device on sites that don’t customarily review hardware at all, like this one at Penny Arcade and this one at Cartoon Brew. This can’t be a coincidence; there’s a deliberate marketing strategy behind these articles.
The idea of a tablet/laptop that’s optimized for the use cases of artists is an interesting one. The pro creatives market has traditionally been somewhat niche in nature and somewhat neglected by large hardware companies. This has been especially true over the past ten years for Apple customers; that company has been practically flagrant in its willingness to shunt aside professional users. It may say something about Microsoft’s market status that it’s turning its attention here, now. But if they’re serious about building out their Surface Pro line into a true digital version of a sketchbook or portable easel, that is something to take note of.
Note: After receiving an email from the editor of Cartoon Brew, I should clarify that I did not intend to suggest that either their article or Penny Arcade’s article (or either site’s interest in the Surface Pro 3, for that matter) were somehow not genuine. What I meant was that it’s my belief that Microsoft is deliberately and specifically reaching out to sites like these in order to raise awareness of the device.+