Although Microsoft had announced the original Surface (running the new Windows RT OS) ten years ago today, the device did not ship until October 26, 2012, and that was also the same night Windows 8 was released.
For the first time since previous Xbox launches and even the release of Windows 95, Microsoft had a big midnight launch for Surface and Windows 8 right in bustling midtown Manhattan.
At the time, I was living nearby. Although Microsoft wasn’t talking to our site officially, I went down like any other fan interested in the company’s supposed answer to the iPad. I grabbed my camera, hopped on a train, and waited in line like everyone else.
The queue for the Microsoft Store was long, but luckily the weather was cooperative and not too cold. The store allowed the crowd to enter at midnight and see Microsoft Surface in person. If they wanted, they could buy it and the Touch Cover on the spot; many did.
On that night, Microsoft and Surface were the stars of the show. The store filled up, and the person who led the development of Surface was there in person — Panos Panay. Not only was he there to personally oversee the launch, but he spoke with customers, showed off the hardware, and, yes, even autographed some hardware and boxes.
It was a snapping combo that I adored.
2012 was the time before website preorders, so Microsoft had a lot of Surfaces in stock. Indeed, it infamously had too many available. It would rear its ugly head when the company announced a massive $900 million write-down nine months later due to not selling enough Surface RTs.
But for us who were there, it was an exciting and memorable night and likely the only time we’ll see another midnight launch for Microsoft hardware.