It’s possible that we just expect too much from Microsoft and we Apple fan folks need to lower our expectations. Once we in the punditry business do that, Microsoft will have more success.
Without telling anyone what was going on, Microsoft, at a Hollywood, CA event, kicked their manufacturing partners in the groin and unveiled their best kept secret since before bald CEO’s became all the rage. CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the Microsoft Surface tablet.
Taking a chapter from The Book That Steve Wrote, Ballmer introduced two Surface models, obviously Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s wildly successful iPad.
One Surface model runs Windows 8, and the other runs Windows RT, a touch version of Windows for tablets.
Amazingly, these are Microsoft-built and branded tablets, not tablets that Microsoft’s traditional OEMs manufacturing partners will build with versions of Microsoft Windows inside.
Also available is an iPad-like cover with magnetic hinges that doubles as both cover and keyboard. The Windows RT version runs an ARM processor, and is 9.3 mm thin at 1.5 pounds (compare to the third generation iPad at 9.4 mm and 1.44 pounds).
The Windows RT model Microsoft Surface is iPad thin and light (9.3 mm thin at 1.5 pounds; compare to the third generation iPad at 9.4 mm and 1.44 pounds) and comes in 32GB and 64GB versions which use an NVidia Tegra processor.
The Windows 8 version comes in 64GB or 128GB versions, is about 50-percent thicker, weighs just under two pounds, and uses an Intel Ivy Bridge processor running Windows 8. The case of both devices is made of vapor-deposited magnesium.
Two keyboard covers will be available, too. One is a thicker, full tactile keyboard called Type Cover and the other is a thinner Touch Cover (without tactile feedback). The screens are 10.6-inches (compared to 9.7-inch diagonal display for the iPad).
On the surface (no pun intended), the Windows RT Surface is similar in size to the iPad, while the Windows 8 Surface is much thinner and lighter than any previous Windows-based tablet, but also features built-in kickstand.
In typical Microsoft fashion, the whole story has yet to be unveiled. For example, what’s the price tag for each Surface model? Let’s assume that the Windows 8 Surface will run Windows 8, and most Windows apps. What about the Windows RT Surface? What’s the screen resolution?
Microsoft’s Surface promotional video is strangely Android Droid-like, and completely differentiates itself from Apple’s feel good iPad videos.
Will Surface be serious competition for iPad? Time will tell, but it’s definitely competition for Microsoft’s soon-to-be former manufacturing partners.
A Few Questions For Microsoft
That brings me to the nitty gritty questions that Microsoft hasn’t been asked and didn’t supply information to answer.
- What’s the Price Tag? Tablets range from $200 up, and Ultrabooks start at $800. Where do the two Surface models fit within that range?
- When Will Surface Go On Sale? Microsoft says about the time Windows 8 becomes available, but the Pro model will be a few months later. So, when is that? 2013? That’s just in time for iPad 4.
- What’s The Battery Life? The 10 hour iPad battery has many fans and is rated about the same as the Windows 8 Pro Surface (which uses a power grabbing Intel CPU).
- What Did Microsoft’s Manufacturing ‘Partners‘ Say? Seriously. Microsoft doesn’t mind giving the shaft to anyone that won’t follow the company’s directives. Remember PlaysForSure? That didn’t last long and neither did the iPod killer Zune.
- Where’s The Window Pro Surface? Attendees at Microsoft’s Surface announcement got to play with the thinner, lighter RT tablet, but not the lighter-than-ultrabook tablet.
- Wireless Anyone? Let’s assume that Wi-Fi is built-in (Microsoft doesn’t say), but what about 3G or 4G LTE models? The MicroSD card slot and USB 3.0 make great bullet points but don’t have much application in the world of real tablets (iPad).
- Why 16:9 And What’s The Screen Resolution? 16:9 aspect ratio is great for playing movies in landscape mode, but tilt the screen to portrait mode and what happens (can the screen even tilt into portrait mode?)?
Oversight? Or, Embarrassment?
Microsoft has become a strange company of late. By some measures they’re doing their best work ever (Windows RT, Metro, Windows Phone), yet they continue to look clumsy and unpolished at every turn.
True, Surface was a well kept secret, but it was announced at night (as opposed to Apple’s usual early morning events which then dominate the news for a few days), and in Los Angeles, not exactly a Mecca of technology pundits.
Microsoft stated they wanted to control every aspect of the Surface devices (as Apple does with their product line)– hardware and software– but software was completely lacking in the presentation.
Still, the stars are lining up, folks.
Microsoft virtually owns beleaguered Nokia, and whatever manufacturing capacity that brings to Windows Phone’s future. Now the company plans to manufacture iPad-competing tablet devices running various and sundry versions of Windows. Meanwhile, Google owns Motorola and whatever phone and table manufacturing that brings to Android’s future.
Get used to it. The world has become Apple’s, Google’s, and Microsoft’s oyster. It’s iOS vs. Android vs. Windows.