Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Details About The Microsoft Surface

Microsoft made a big splash in the tablet market yesterday when the company announced the new Surface line of tablets. The tablets are Microsoft's first entry into the tablet market to date, and from the looks of it the company came out strong.

Microsoft Surface

Now that the aftermath of yesterday's "big event" has settled we have a few more details on the first set of tablets that were announced. Microsoft hinted Surface is the family name meaning there will likely be more devices

Microsoft Surface RT and Surface Pro

Ok so MS didn't officially name the two devices yesterday but Surface RT and Surface Pro sound good to me!

Two Surface-branded tablets were announced yesterday. One will be running Windows RT and an Nvidia Tegra ARM processor, the other will run Windows 8 Pro with an Intel Core i5 chip. There are some sharp differences between the two versions of Windows 8, app support being one of the biggest and likely the greatest users will focus on.

The Windows Surface RT will be more a tablet competitor than anything else. It will be running the new version of Windows RT, which is a slight more limited version of Microsoft's new OS. The Surface RT include touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. For new apps, the focus for Windows RT is development on the new Windows runtime, or WinRT which will mean much tighter restrictions as to what can and can't be ran.

There have already been some major concerns voiced by Mozilla and Google over the tight restrictions placed on apps and API access with the Windows RT infrastructure and as of now there has been limited application development. Something I'm sure Microsoft has been working on.

The Surface Pro will be running a full version of the new Windows 8 operating system. So we can think of this more as an Ultrabook, or laptop competitor than just a tablet competitor. Just like any Intel or AMD based laptop a user will have full x86 application support. Which means you can run just about any software that Windows runs now.

Surface vs iPad vs Everything Else

When it come to tablets everything these days is compared to the iPad and perhaps a handful of Android tablets like the ASUS Transformer. Lucky enough Microsoft gave us some hard facts related to specs and so far things look fairly impressive.

The Windows RT Surface will weigh 676 grams, be 9.3mm thick, have a 10.6" ClearType HD display, and be available in 32 GB and 64 GB models. It will have a microSD card reader built-in, along with a USB 2.0 port, micro HD video port, and 2x2 MMO antennae.

The Windows 8 Pro will have the same screen but weigh in at 903g, be 13.5mm thick, and initially offer 64 GB and 128 GB hard drives. The card reader will be a microSDXC, the port will be USB 3.0, video will be Mini DisplayPort video, and it'll have the same 2x2 MMO antennae.

A PDF posted by Microsoft notes that the resolution is "HD" for the Windows RT (ARM) model, and "Full HD" for the Windows 8 Pro model. Unfortunately, "HD" doesn't actually translate well, and actually means the device is likely to end up with a 1366x768 display at 10 inches for the Windows RT edition.

Compare that to the new iPad which weighs in at 652g, is 9.4mm thick, features a 9.7-inch 2048x1536 HD retina display and comes in configurations of 16GB, 32GB and 64GBs. The new Transformer Prime weighs in at 586g, is 8.3mm thick, features a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 HD IPS screen and comes in configurations of 16GB, 32GB and 64GBs. It also adds a single micro HDMI port and Micro SD Card Reader.

The major gamer changer here however might be the built in kick stand, Touch Cover, a super-thin, flexible keyboard; and Type Cover, a slightly thicker, more laptop-style keyboard. All of these were impressive looking add-ons. While similar items are available for other models they didn't have the sleek sexy look that the Surface cases had.

Early Hands on Reviews

Sadly I wasn't at the even to get my geeky little hands on the new Surface tablets but several of our favorite geeks where. So here are some of the early reviews.
TechCrunch: “It’s a very ambitious effort that the company is making great pains to emphasize has been built by Microsoft from the inside out, from the hardware to the software.”
Engadget: “It’s impossible to weigh in on Surface when we only handled one of the two tablets, and when each hands-on opportunity amounted to a Supermarket Sweep-style tour of various demo areas. Still, even after some brief handling, we feel impressed, almost sobered by what Microsoft’s managed to produce after vowing to take the Windows 8 hardware-software package into its own hands.”
The Verge: “Here it is, Microsoft Surface, the all new, Microsoft-made tablet. We just had our hands on the sleek new device, and we must say — it does feel incredibly well designed.”
BGR: “But what I saw looked really intriguing, and Microsoft has at least in concept created a tablet computer that can also double as a PC. While this alone certainly won’t be enough to help Microsoft compete with the mighty Apple iPad, it does breathe some much-needed life into Microsoft’s mobile product line.”
Mashable: “Overall, this is a good try from Microsoft. Surface will be the PC-based touchscreen to beat, and other Windows tablet-makers have to be quaking in their boots right about now. But the company needs to answer a lot of questions, and let us kick the tires.”

Microsoft Surface Pricing and Availability

Microsoft has yet to provide details on pricing and availability but we have some rumors and speculation and a bit of advice for MS. Rumors suggest the entry level Surface RT (as I'm calling it) might be priced below $300, while the low end Surface Pro (again my name) will be north of $500 perhaps even in the $600 range.

To me this is where Microsoft is going to make their biggest mistake. I loved some of the features that the Surface had, and it looks like a great tablet. But it needs to be competitively priced. Sure they packed it will features, lots of storage space and a great CPU. However, that just isn't going to be enough to draw the 'tablet crowd' if the price is high. So my advice to Microsoft is to make sure they price these tablets accordingly. Keep the cost as competitive as possible!

Final Conclusion:
Microsoft certainly made waves in the tablet pool. Whether or not the Surface family will be a hit or a flop will certainly depend on a ton of factors. Mainly pricing and completely specifications. Let's keep in mind Microsoft only gave us the basics. One thing is for certain for Microsoft to continue to impress, they had better come in with a solid product. Otherwise their first official leap into the tablet pool might be a sinker.

They didn't allow video streaming from its Surface tablet event last night, but now MS has delivered the entire presentation online. You can view the full video here you can also view more details about the Microsoft surface at Microsoft.com/Surface.

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