ON our mission to assess the new Tech Tablets, let us look at the spec sheet, the new devices sound promising and early impressions are generally positive. The new tablets will come with a 10.6-inch display, a kickstand for tabletop viewing, and a super-thin keyboard case that attaches to the device with magnets.
Surface will come in two flavors: Surface with Windows RT and Surface Pro with Windows 8 Pro. Windows RT is the version of Windows 8 designed for ARM processors; it includes the new touch-friendly Metro-style interface, as well as a limited version of the traditional Windows desktop for running Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. This will give it the feel of being a real computer. As for the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy and the iPAD and MAC Notebooks, these features are lacking, a factor that makes transitioning from the mainstream PC difficult!
Surface tablets with Windows RT will include a micros slot, USB 2.0, and a Micro HD port. The devices will weigh about 1.5 pounds and be about 0.36-inches thick. Microsoft did not say which processor the Windows RT device would have, but did say the tablets will come with your choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage. The Surface Pro tablets will be Intel-based with access to the Metro UI as well as to the fully functional Windows desktop and will come in 64GB and 128GB versions. The tablet will have a microSDXC card slot, USB 3.0, and Mini Display Port. The Surface Pro will weigh just under two pounds and be about half-an-inch thick. That’s as much as we know about Surface, but there are also a few interesting questions left to answer.
How Much Will It Cost? Microsoft was short on details when it came to pricing the new Surface tablets. The company said the Windows RT version of Surface would cost about the same as comparable slates. Surface Pro, meanwhile, would be priced similar to comparable competitive Ultra book PCs. We can only assume that comparable tablets for the Windows RT version mean the market leader, Apple’s iPad. So the entry-level Surface models should cost about $600 for the 32GB version and $700 for the 64GB model. How much Surface Pro devices will cost is another issue entirely since Microsoft wants to compete with Ultrabook PCs. When Intel introduced the new class of portable laptops in spring 2011, they were supposed to be priced under $1,000. But that dream is only now becoming a reality with second-generation Ultrabooks.
Devices like the Lenovo U310 and 410 are priced at $750 and $800 respectively, Vizio just released a line of Ultrabooks that start at $900, and the base model for Sony’s new Vaio T13 costs $800. Will the Surface Pro be priced under $1,000 as well, or will Microsoft reach for a higher cost similar to the Samsung Series 9 ($1,400-$1,500) or the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A ($1,100)?
As to when It will be on the market, The Windows RT version of Surface is due to come out during the general release of Windows 8, which is expected in the fall, around October. The Surface Pro is scheduled for release about three months later, meaning in early 2013. Microsoft did not offer any specifics beyond these general time lines. Will Microsoft Ever Give Up on the Digital Pen? Bill Gates at the 2002 introduction of Windows Tablet PC edition with digital pen Microsoft couldn’t resist giving a nod to its legacy tablets (convertible notebooks) by including digital pen functionality with the Surface Pro.
But haven’t consumers already spoken and said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to digital pen input technology by adopting the finger-driven iPad in droves? What About 3G/4G Connectivity? Microsoft didn’t say whether the new Surface devices would include mobile data. Perhaps the company didn’t want to discuss that issue while it works on developing carrier partnerships for its new tablets. Wi-Fi only devices are great, but many people--especially those looking at the Surface Pro for work--will want the option of a higher-priced device that comes with 3G/4G connectivity.