In the interest of full disclosure, we should go ahead and mention that we’re all Apple lovers here at Ethos3, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the unveiling of a new, hyped device. CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the keynote presentation, held on Tuesday, introducing Microsoft’s new Surface tablet running on Windows 8. And although the presentation wasn’t particularly sexy, the new Surface tablet kind of is.
Mr. Ballmer isn’t the most charismatic of speakers. His gestures look somewhat unnatural, and he doesn’t inflect in the right places when speaking. The former criticism can be overlooked, but the latter is something that he should have addressed while practicing. His tendency to inflect the less significant words in a sentence (“and” rather than “anywhere, anytime,” for example) results in statements that are less powerful than they could be. Make sure you consider inflection when practicing. It matters.
Also, and this is typical of Microsoft keynotes in general, Mr. Ballmer’s inclination to speak with big words in long sentences is counterproductive to easy comprehension. He tends to speak in lofty sentences (“spurring on an ecosystem of unrivaled success”) with ten-dollar words (“gratified,” “quarantined”) when a simple sentence with a two-dollar word would work just as well, and be infinitely easier to understand.
Overall, the main problem with Mr. Ballmer’s portion of the keynote presentation is that it’s not particularly accessible. The strongest, most compelling points he makes are hidden behind a heap of words. Of course, all tech geeks and news junkies are listening to his ten-dollar words with enthusiasm and the utmost concentration, but for the average viewer, it’s a dense, cumbersome spiel.
Mr. Ballmer eventually hands it off to Steven Sinofsky, who does a good job presenting the details of the Surface. Mr. Sinofsky is a much more accessible speaker than his boss. He keeps his sentences short and simple, and employs much better inflection than Mr. Ballmer. An awkward moment comes when the Surface doesn’t work properly and Mr. Sinofsky must grab another one to use, but he takes the slipup in stride and things continue to progress smoothly. (Which is not to say such a blunder is acceptable. If you’re giving a keynote that unveils a new product, make sure that product works before you begin.)
The most memorable moment of the keynote presentation came when Mr. Sinofsky revealed the keyboard housed on the back of the tablet’s cover. It came as a surprise when he flipped the cover down, and the audience received it with applause. It’s a sexy device, and Microsoft fashioned excellent, simplistic visuals to accompany the discussion of the tablet’s details. The word ‘Surface’ is used excessively throughout the presentation (understandable, but at a certain point it feels like they’re beating it over our heads), and the repeated use of buzz words/phrases like “We’re just getting started” and “Sit back and enjoy” feel kitschy and obtuse.
Overall, Microsoft’s Surface tablet keynote presentation could have used a little more enthusiasm and flair. We’d like to see them tone down the complicated, dense wordage in favor of a more simplistic, straightforward approach. Their slides and visuals are solid and compelling in their simplicity, now it’s time for their delivery to catch up.
Watch the keynote in its entirety here.
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