New Microsoft Tablet SurfacesJune 19, 2012
Microsoft has decided to enter the hardware game with its own tablet lineup. As you can see from the play on words in the headline, the new tablet is being called Microsoft Surface. This is a really big deal, and I think it has the potential to be a game-changer. There are still some unknowns, but let’s have a look at what we do know.
There will be two major versions of the Surface, each with some variations on specs (storage in particular):
- The Windows RT version will run on an ARM architecture. It looks like it’s going to run on a Nvidia processor – probably the recently announced Tegra 3+ for Windows RT, but we don’t know about clock speeds yet. The RT version will be thin (9.3mm) and relatively light (1.5 pounds) with a 10.6″ 16:9 ClearType HD display, will come with 32 or 64 GB of storage, and will have Microsoft Office for Windows RT out of the box.
- The Windows 8 Pro version will run on a current gen (Ivy Bridge) Intel Core i5 processor, but again nothing on clock speeds. The Intel version is a little thicker at 13.5mm and heavier at 1.9 pounds with a 10.6″ 16:9 ClearType full HD (1080p) display, will come in 64 or 128 GB flavors, and it appears you’ll have to buy Microsoft Office for this one.
The tablets look very nice – Microsoft has outdone itself on design. Did you ever hear about that liquid metal rumor for new Apple devices? Well, Microsoft is using it for Surfaces. Dubbed “VapourMG” the liquid metal is light and strong, and makes for a nice looking shell. It also has a very practical kickstand built in to the case that Microsoft really played up, saying it feels and sounds like closing the door of an expensive car. That sentiment was echoed by those that had hands-on time with the tablets at the announcement event. Accessories include a pair of covers with embedded keyboards – one a touch keyboard with flush keys, and one a tactile keyboard with raised keys. There are also USB (USB 2.0 on ARM, USB 3.0 on Intel), display, and SD card slots on both models, as well as 2×2 MIMO antennae on the 802.11n WiFi radio.
Questions remain unanswered, though. First, how did Microsoft keep this under wraps leading up to the announcement event? Good for them, but Microsoft is certainly not known for its ability to keep secrets, and this came as a surprise to everyone – speculation was abound, but nobody knew exactly what was coming. Second, we don’t have definitive launch dates. Tentatively, the RT model is expected about the time Windows 8 releases, which should be late October. The Intel model is expected a few months after the Windows 8 launch, which means it will miss the holiday shopping season. Microsoft says pricing for the RT model will be competitive with other similarly spec’d ARM tablets, while the Intel model will be competitive with current generation Ultrabooks. Both timing and pricing are very important. Either way, the Surfaces will be almost 3 years behind the original iPad, raising the “too little, too late” question. If they can’t price the models very competitively, it will be very hard to take share in an extraordinarily competitive market.
The bottom line is the Surface tablets look very, very compelling. The Intel Surface looks like a great solution for business. In one of our recent solution sets “Tackle the Technology of Consumerization“, we said that Windows 8 would “disrupt the landscape of tablets and laptops” and it looks like we might have been right.