Microsoft was on a junction, and the surface was at risk of roadkill.
RELATED: Microsoft Surface product road map revealed in new book
The year was 2013, just five years ago. Steve Ballmer had announced plans to go down as Microsoft CEO. The company launched its poor plan to buy Nokia's smartphone business. Microsoft's Windows team underwent leadership after the Windows 8 flop. And Microsoft Surface hardware business, which was still a news in a company based on software, reeling from a $ 900 million financial battle.
"With so much turmoil in the company, Surface was the only hope to survive a home game," writes technology journalist Brad Sams in his new book, expiring today. "And while nobody said it publicly, if the next iteration of Surface failed to win in the market, the brand and hardware would cease to exist."
This is the dramatic thrill that leads to the great plot twist in "Under a Surface: The Embedded History of How Microsoft Accepts a $ 900 Million Impairment to Be the Hero of the PC Industry."
The outcome will not be a spoiler for those who follow Microsoft closely: The launch of the Pro 3 in 2014 helped revive the company's hardware business by aiming to be top class for work and productivity applications, instead of trying to surpass Apple, Google and others in consumer technology and – apps. As a first-party hardware, Microsoft has established itself as a top 5 PC provider in the United States for device shipments, just behind Apple.
But even those who know the company well will get insight from Sams & # 39; book, thanks to back-stage details that provide new information about internal debates and decisions that shaped the surface business. sections of ups and downs in Microsoft's high-profile NFL partnerships, and the circumstances that led to reliability issues with several models of Surface tablets and laptops.
The story of the Surface business also serves a greater purpose, and provides a window into Microsoft's wider transition and recovery. It's a particularly timely story this week, as Microsoft and Apple act as the most valuable US trading company. Under Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft has overall doubled on productivity, cloud and enterprise technology, and reduced focus on consumer devices and applications.
Within the Surface business, the emblem of this transition Microsoft's decision under Nadella was to kill the unannounced Surface Mini just days before it was released in June 2014. This was due to partial concerns about the limited library of Windows applications on ARM- platform, which also had the home of the original Surface RT tablet. Microsoft replaced the Intel-based Surface Pro 3, with its 12-inch display and 3: 2 aspect ratios, more suited to productivity applications than the previous 16: 9 widescreen surface tablets.
On 155 pages, "Under a Surface" is a quick and enjoyable reading. Sams, Executive Vice President of IT and Technology News, Petri.com and Thurrott.com, has an overview of Microsoft's scoops and its hardware business.
Continuing this tradition, the book concludes with new details about Microsoft's future surface product map, including the latest information about its plans for a two-screen foldable device, the code name Andromeda. Sams reports that the device is currently slated for a late release in 2019, in a larger form than many have expected, even though he warns that the company's plans could still be changed.
A former Neowin editor, Samson draws on more than a decade of reporting for the book, as well as information from what he describes as almost two dozen anonymous interviewers, including unnamed current and former corporate insiders.
The book provides plenty of new information, plus entertaining stories like the story of how Sams got his hands on the "missed" Surface Mini-table prototype. But I found myself at times for more quotes from sources, and more juicy inside stories and anecdotes. For example, as reading, I wanted to listen directly from Microsoft Surface chief and hardware manager Panos Panay, and now reflect on the last minute decision by Microsoft's senior leadership team to kill the Surface Mini, despite his efforts to save it.  One of the book's strengths is the clear explanation of what Microsoft is trying to achieve with the Surface business, creating new form factors and establishing a market for premium Windows devices while driving disturbances for their PC partners against Apple at the high end of hardware market. The book is comprehensive and up to date, ranging from the original Surface tablets to Surface Studio, Surface Book and Surface Laptop, and even touches the newly released Surface headphones.
Finally, "Under a Surface" is a case study in a company's ability to play its core strengths, find a successful niche in the market, overcome internal turmoil and deal with complicated relationships with industry partners to reverse its wealth.
[Editor'sNote: GeekWire works with Steve Ballmer and his USAFacts initiative on a new podcast called Numbers Geek, which will be released later this time. This is a great reading for anyone interested in navigating in the complex world of business and technology. year.]