When Microsoft introduced Windows 8, its goals were ambitious: a single operating system for both computer and tablet. When it unveiled the Surface, it upped the stakes: One single device promised both laptop and tablet experiences. No compromises.
That didn't work. It won't ever work.
The Surface RT is a very good (if not quite great) piece of hardware with some of the most innovative design ideas we saw 2012. It wasn't, however, a pure laptop and pure tablet in a single piece of hardware.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this month, Microsoft showed me the more powerful Surface Pro, which will hit store shelves next month.
At a glance, there's nothing radically different about the Surface Pro from its less expensive and more limited Surface RT counterpart. Under the hood, its 1080p display is sharper, and its Intel Core i5 processor makes everything faster and smoother. It runs legacy Windows apps and includes a pressure-sensitive stylus, a rarity for touchscreen devices.
Those upgrades, though, come at a cost -- and I'm not talking about its price tag. The Surface Pro is more than half an inch thick and weighs two pounds. That's fine for a laptop. For a tablet, it's borderline obese. Its battery performance will likely also lag behind other tablets.
Where the Surface RT is a tablet that can do some laptop-y things, the Surface Pro is a laptop that can do some tablet things. If this isn't a killing of Microsoft's initial fusion vision, it's certainly a neutering.
It also speaks to a higher truth. The mythical hybrid computing device we all envision may never exist because it's exactly that: a myth.
Microsoft isn't the only one striving for the elusive laptop/tablet bridge. Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung have all produced hybrid devices that dock, detatch, twist, turn, fold, bend, swivel and slide. Even Apple, a company openly opposed to producing an all-out hybrid, spent the last year implementing shared elements between its mobile iOS and desktop OS X.
Processor power challenges, battery life and those awful tablet keyboard docks aren't the real problem. Those are all fixable.