During a trip to a Verizon Wireless store in Northern California earlier this week, I noticed a Windows 8 tablet sitting on a display table next to the Windows Phones. It was confined in a red security frame that made it difficult to handle in a natural way, and initially made it tough to tell which tablet it was.

There was no price tag, sign or other materials identifying the tablet, and it didn’t appear to be available for purchase. Looking at it more closely, I realized that it was, in fact, a Microsoft Surface. 

Someone else before me had switched the view from the new Windows 8 Start screen to the old-fashioned Windows desktop, with a “Windows Network Diagnostics” dialogue on the screen. The store clerks were too busy selling Androids, iPhones and iPads to reset the Microsoft device to the Start screen, let alone explain what the Surface was, why it was there or why anyone should be interested.

Worst of all, there was no sign of a keyboard cover, the signature accessory for the Surface, and even if there had been one, the frame would have kept it from being attached to the tablet.

In short, it was about the least-compelling showcase imaginable for Microsoft’s flagship Windows 8 tablet. It made the Surface feel like a nondescript commodity, not a gleaming piece of hardware that someone would want to buy.

After I got home I did some searching and saw that Surface is also being mysteriously displayed in these red shackles at other Verizon Wireless stores, without any explanation.

Apparently it’s meant to show people the similarities to the nearby Windows Phones. There has been some speculation that the displays are a prelude to Verizon selling the Surface, but without built-in mobile broadband, that seems unlikely for now.

I’ve contacted Microsoft to find out more about why the Surface is on display at Verizon, and will let you know what I hear back.

In the meantime, this is not a good thing for the company or for the Surface launch. With the salespeople busy on the other side of the store, I kept thinking back to how Microsoft and Verizon teamed up on the Microsoft Kin … and we all know how well that turned out.

Microsoft is limiting initial sales of the Surface to its own retail and online stores for the holidays, which has given the tablet an aura of exclusivity, and let the company control how the tablet is displayed and demonstrated at retail. A Surface rollout to the massive Verizon retail chain should be accompanied by lots of fanfare, or at least a sign and a chance for people to hold the device naturally and try out its signature accessory.

Verizon is turning the Surface into a sideshow, and not in a good way.

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  • Guest

    Unacceptable. It upsets me when a carrier tethers their devices, physically, to the counters on which they sit. These are MOBILE devices, Verizon. Don’t immobilise them.
    I have found, though, that if you ask one of the drones at these shops to show you a real version of one of their devices, untethered and uncrippled, they will usually oblige. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    • Guest

      The Apple stores are doing the same with exhibited iPads. That doesn’t seem to take away from the tablet experience, they are clearly selling well. Maybe there’s something wrong with the Surface or W8 if the experience doesn’t come across when confined like that. One more indication that the Surface is not really a tablet.

      • LD

        Interesting perspective, but not completely valid.
        Maybe the surface hasn’t been around as long as any of the iWhatsits, so this sort of display is part of a grand conspiracy by VZN to “shackle” the sales of this device. Maybe it’s a way to show Microsoft that they don’t really want to sell this device unless it’s got 3/4G in it. Maybe it’s some kind of stealth marketing ploy by M$FT. Who knows? I’m guessing we’ll find out in a few days/weeks.
        To assume automaniacally that it’s either a) some kind of conspiracy (ala the author), or b) that there’s something inherently wrong with the device, is premature at best and childish at worst.
        And by way of full disclosure, I’m a Linux FB if I’m an FB of anything, and I could care less about Android, iOS, or Win Phone.

        • Guest

          I hear you, but I think my point is not completely invalid either. Confining a tablet in a security frame is not a deal breaker in itself. I do agree though that Verizon is trying to prove a point here; they clearly don’t show it any love. And if I were MSFT I’d be wondering where all that hate is coming from (and then change my attitude).

          I’m with you on Linux, minimally positive on Android, genuinely despise Apple and just stunned by MSFT ever since the “Metro” brain fart. But generally I think I still see things the way they are, not the way I’d like them to be. So when Apple does something right (iPad), I’ll acknowledge it. Same goes for MSFT (i.e. W7). Or even that Unity and Gnome 3 suck.

      • http://twitter.com/chrisakatrace Chris Reynolds

        Completely invalid. It’s not really a tablet? What does that mean, b/c it certainly looks like a tablet to me. What else would it be? What are you talking about?

        • Guest

          I’m talking about the experience. It looks like a tablet alright, but without a keyboard and confined by a security frame, and the tablet experience is virtually gone. All you have left then is a reason for a blogger to complain. The same cannot be said about the iPad, as it too is confined to a frame in the Apple store and presented without a keyboard. Completely invalid? I don’t think so. And the market is proving me right.

  • guest

    I’m sure Ballmer’s all over this /s

    • Guest

      You may have misread, it said covered by a red frame, not redhead. ;)

  • Ian C

    But the surface sucks, sounds like verizon is goving it ALL the respect it has EARNED

    • http://twitter.com/chrisakatrace Chris Reynolds

      Have you used the surface? How do you know it sucks?

  • Guest

    Ever considered that Verizon might be doing this intentionally? They know how to sell stuff (and how not to). Carriers control mobile, so why would Verizon want MSFT to succeed on their turf and bully them around later on.

    Who knows, maybe it was the employees who switched it to Desktop mode.

  • Shizuppy

    Verizon realizes that only fanboys have an interest in
    Win 8 or Win RT. While RT is all right except for the ridiculous fact
    that MS’s own Office suite has to run on a makeshift “desktop” within
    it, Win 8 is the real problem. A convoluted, ill thought-out, mess of
    an OS which should have been smothered in the cradle. If Microsoft ever
    goes bankrupt, you’ll be able to trace it directly back to Windows 8.

  • uxo22

    Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how you take nothing and turn it into news for the weak minded fan boys that need to justify why they still living in their momma’s house past the age of 30. Who cares that Surface was in a security frame. Had it been out on display with a touch cover installed there would be a flood of rumors that Verizon was selling Surface. Move on folks, there is nothing to see here.

    • Guest

      [Definition] MSFT astroturfing: insult opponents, downplay issue, and speak with authority.

      Well executed, Sir.

      • Objective

        That guy is just plain ridiculous. Click on his Disqus profile and notice the only articles he comments on. It appears he lives in Alaska and has an unhealthy infatuation with Microsoft.

        • uxo22

          Haha, is that’s what you came up with. First off “Objective” while looking at my profile if you didn’t have your fan boy goggles on you would notice 95 percent of my comments are to counter ridiculous comments made by jackass fan boys like yourself. What does living in Alaska have to do with anything. Go ahead, comment about what it’s like living in Alaska to show just how ignorant you really are.
          You have never seen me bash another product by another company, but what you have read is me providing a counter comment to dumbass comments made by you.

        • TruelyObjective

          Objective, where is your profile? You’re just instigating. I think his point has some validity. If Surface was on display for people to use, why would you not think you can buy it a Verizon? Maybe that’s why is was set up the way it was. I looked at his profile and he’s right, most of his comments is arguing with fanboys. I haven’t read a comment of his that says ipad sucks or android is garbage like I do a lot of people around here. #JustSaying.

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com/ JimmyFal

    I can sell the Surface and the WinPho8 in minutes once I show it to people the way it is supposed to be shown. It is actually easy to do. The biggest response I get from people is that it is a totally different and positive experience than what they have heard about in the press articles. But I can’t do it all by myself. Microsoft needs to open dozens and dozens of stores, YESTERDAY.

    • http://twitter.com/fijiaaron Aaron Evans

      All these evil corporations must hate profit. Or maybe their commision-based employees are deliberately ruining their own chances of selling it to spite Microsoft — and so they can tell their kids with an evil grin that they don’t have enough extra after working retail at the mall to buy them a Christmas present. Hahahaha!

  • Kevin Pierce

    Which is worse – Verizon doing a crappy merchandising job, or Microsoft making ads that show people throwing the device around?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brenton.klassen Brenton Klassen

    This is terrible. The stores are doing a terrible job of displaying Windows 8.

  • ckeledjian

    I have two friends who got a Surface after seeing mine, one tech savvy and other not. Both are puzzled by the criticism in the tech blogs, had they read those before they would probably wouldn’t have bought it. But they did and they are just happy for the new level of productivity that they can achieve with the Surface. They can use is as a tablet and when they require some more complex work with multiple windows they just use the touch cover and trackpad, there is nothing unnatural about that, if your fingers get too fat or if you are remote desktop to a mouse based UI there is nothing like having a trackpad and use the pointer and Surface gives you that without adding any bulk, to the point you can forget your laptop at home and you’ll be fine.

  • Trip

    There is good reason why this has just accidentally landed next to windows phones in Verizon stores. They are not selling the surface at Verizon you guys… My guess – the Surface on display will be getting some software that will help promote the windows phones.. My reasoning would stem from why would microsoft want a droid or any other powered tablet trying to explain windows phone. This display will tie together soon :)

  • rick

    From my findings there is no cell connection with the Surface. Why would Verizon carry this product as they can’t charge for band width.

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