Lines appear, Microsoft stores full of customers interested in Surface, new offerings

Even analysts can get things wrong.

I still have news clippings from respected writers, writing in respected publications, panning the original iPhone. Just trashing it. I have a similar collection from the iPad’s release.

I keep them for a good sense of perspective.

On the other hand, I also have a collection of articles for items that were considered to be can’t-miss: Microsoft’s Zune mp3 player, RIM’s PlayBook and HP’s TouchPad were supposed to be iPod and iPad killers, respectively.

Spoiler alert: they did miss, on a planetary scale.

So–how refreshing is it to see apparent success occur once again from predicted failure? To make an analogy: a robust harvest of crops in fields thought to be barren, dusty wastelands?

According to cnet.com’s Brooke Crothers, Microsoft’s stores have lines outside them, and they’re full of people! (And, this time there’s no giveaway!)

CENTURY CITY, Calif.–As of this weekend, Microsoft has a hot product on its hands.

Reviews notwithstanding (some have been pretty negative), on Friday my local Microsoft store in Century City (in Los Angeles) was buzzing with curious people keen on trying the Surface, as lines snaked outside. Other stores drew crowds too.

(And all three Surface models are back-ordered three weeks on Microsoft’s online store.)

I was surprised to see any line at all. After reading some reviews, you would have thought that the Surface was DOA.

Fortunately, I had plenty of time to try out the Surface for myself. Ill-conceived, unusable keyboard? Nope. Yeah, it takes getting used to, but the 3mm-thick keyboard is far from unusable and beats a virtual keyboard any day.

And besides, for a few bucks more you can get the other Surface keyboard that Microsoft is selling, which is a real keyboard — responsive and easy to use.

And as I’ve been saying for a while now, as an interface, I like Windows 8 and its dual personality.

For Microsoft, one of the more encouraging signs (I saw) was the intensity of interest. Customers had lots of questions about Surface and some sat there for 30 minutes or even an hour kicking the tires (or, in this case, pounding on the 3mm keyboard).

If Microsoft can maintain that kind of enthusiasm, it has a chance to make a run at the iPad and MacBook.

The other unmistakable change at the Microsoft store (which I visit often) was a crop of new Windows 8 laptops with touch screens.

While it’s way too soon to see how this could translate into sales–the Surface is sold out until November 2, as the story notes–what’s good news for Microsoft is that people are actually interested in the Surface. They want to see what all the fuss is about, negative or otherwise.

We won’t know until it’s actually available for sale whether there was negative or positive buzz being generated. Recall that with the ill-fated Vista it was overwhelmingly negative, dooming it early in its short life.

But the point is: there was buzz. Microsoft has to be happy about that part of it. It got people into its stores to look at its new products.

Now, let’s see if they’re legitimate buyers or only curious spectators.

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