Brace yourself: Microsoft Surface ad barrage may start tonight

It sounds like it's time for Microsoft to finally start sharing more information, beginning with TV ads and a new official Surface blog, about its coming tablets and PCs.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
3 min read

Microsoft is expected to begin airing the first of its TV ads for Microsoft Surface on October 15, possibly during Monday Night Football and "Dancing with the Stars."

Windows Supersite Editor Paul Thurrott tweeted about the alleged timing of the ads, based on information from unnamed sources, on October 15. Thurrott also tweeted that he's been told that Microsoft is spending $400 million on its Surface ad campaign -- plus whatever it's spending on its Windows 8 ad campaign. Microsoft kicked off its U.S. TV commercials for Windows 8 on October 14 in the U.S.

While Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the ad agency behind the Windows 8 ads, they are not believed to be the ones behind the Surface campaign. Microsoft used a Seattle-based duo to create the initial promotional short film about the Surface.

I asked Microsoft for comment and didn't hear back. Update: I received a no comment from a spokesperson about anything and everything to do with any alleged Surface ads.

Whatever happens on the ad front, it looks as if a new official Surface blog is set to launch soon. The Microsoft Surface Twitter account posted its first tweet this past weekend. 

Microsoft has yet to advertise its coming Surface PC/tablet devices other than via some display ads in various cities in the U.S. and elsewhere. Here's a picture I snapped this weekend of the Surface ad in Times Square that is right above the Microsoft Times Square holiday pop-up store that is under construction:


The ARM-based Surface RT devices are due to go on sale starting on October 26, which is the same day that Windows 8 and Windows RT PCs and tablets from Microsoft OEMs also will go on sale at retail. The Intel-based Surface Pro device will go on sale approximately three months later, Microsoft execs have said.

Microsoft also has yet to open up about Surface pricing or make the devices available through pre-order. The Softies have said repeatedly that the Surface devices will be sold through Microsoft's brick-and-mortar stores, its 34 holiday pop-up stores which open on October 26 and via "select Microsoft online" stores.

The Surface devices are Microsoft's first foray into selling its own Microsoft-designed and -branded PCs/tablets. Microsoft officials have been playing up Surface's differentiators from existing Windows tablets and devices. Among those differentiators are the choice of different colored touch keyboards and type keyboards that "click in" and act as a cover for the Surface devices. ("Click in" is the tagline on Microsoft's graffitti ads for the devices.)

Microsoft is really is focusing on the keyboard as what enables the Surface to work equally well for consumption and creation. Another shot from the still-under-construction Times Square site shows a huge Surface keyboard hanging on a transparent plastic sheet in the entrance:


Microsoft still hasn't allowed any independent reviewers to have any quality hands-on time with the Surface RT. Hopefully that will happen soon, as no one has yet written about the experience of typing on these keyboards in a non-simulated setting, the performance of the Windows RT operating system on the devices, real-world battery performance -- or anything that would allow potential buyers to realistically evalute the coming devices.

Here's the only spec sheet we have from Microsoft for the Surface RT and Surface Pro devices. The Surface RT will be available in 32/64 GB options and -- as far as we know -- will be Wifi only devices. Surface RT devices, like all Windows RT PCs and tablets, work exclusively with keyboards, mice and other peripherals certified for the new operating system. 

Microsoft's advertising and retail strategies are going to be inordinately important for the Surface, given Microsoft's tiny current tablet share and its decision to compete against its own OEMs for the first time in this space. As I've blogged before, the company's challenge is to prove it has a premium product worth a premium price, if it decides, as expected, to use something other than price as its primary competitive weapon.

This item first appeared on ZDNet's All About Microsoft blog under the headline "Microsoft's TV campaign for Surface devices expected to commence Monday night."