[I first wrote this post on Google+ over here. Click through for more discussion and Curation there as well.]
I’ve been collecting my thoughts on the Microsoft “Surface” “tablet” since it was announced yesterday, and rather than trying to gel it into a longer coherent post, here’s the key points, rapid-fire, not necessarily in any particular order:
0) Vaporware… (by the way, in this context am I the only one who found it hilariously ironic that they called the case for this thing “VaporMag”…).
So let me get this straight, Microsoft. You made journalists schlep across the country, no, the planet, for a product that might not ship for months? … no ship date, no prices and… no compelling 3rd-party applications or even Office to show on it whatsoever. So we have no idea how well it performs, and how well supported it will be by 3rd-party software developers. …No demonstration or even any claims of how good the battery life on each model is.
1) Microsoft just threw a grenade into their OEMs locker-room, and they must be pretty desperate about Windows 8/RT’s chances to have done so.
From the same ZDNet post:
…And if the Pro version of the Surface is powerful enough, with Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge CPUs, why do we need Ultrabooks if we can just clamp a keyboard cover to a Surface Pro? Am I the only person who believes this thing is a total jump the shark cluster-you-know-what for Microsoft?
Right now, Microsoft’s OEMs — with the exception of whatever “lucky” company got the nod to do the contract manufacturing for this product — must be absolutely livid. To produce their own ARM and x86 Windows 8 systems, they have to pay exorbitant licensing fees. Windows RT is going to cost an estimated $85 per copy to your average OEM. A Windows 8 Professional license on x86 will be considerably more.
More on the possible intention of the Surface RT and Pro being “halo devices” at the bottom of the post.
2) Which brings me to the form-factor issue: The 10.6″ screen size makes both these tablets too large, while the “Pro” version at 2 pounds is also way too heavy, and ends up being more like a Netbook, no?
I’ve said for a long time that I find even the 9.7″ iPad with still wide bezel around the screen too large at times for truly mobile, non-tiring use. Same for the ubiquitous 10.1″ Android tablets. Which is BTW why I personally settled on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, which also only weighs just under 1 pound, and makes for the perfect size/weight/handling combination for my tastes.
But 10.6″ weighing in at 2 pounds?! Who are they thinking will use this thing as a tablet? This truly is more in the direction of the meaning of “slate”/stone tablet…
It appears that MSFT are running headlong into the power-requirements for Win8/RT leading to non-tablet-y weight/size trap that I have pointed out repeatedly before as the Achille’s Heel of the whole Windows 8 “combined OS” enterprise (-> item #3). SeekingAlpha has a post up that goes in the same direction:
…its Surface Pro version still seems a bit half-baked. In the attempt to feed it Intel’s (INTC) Ivy Bridge i5, the device ended up being a little on the thick side and needing active cooling. It would seem Microsoft would do better to have a second go at this and use a slightly less powerful Intel processor, to get the device using passive cooling and getting a bit slimmer.
The whole point of the post-PC/iPad is low weight, low power consumption, and incredible battery life. #facepalm
3) And while Apple at least had a compelling reason not to make the iPad 3 lighter (it actually became a tiny bit heavier over the iPad 2 – interesting tidbit, Apple no longer lists the weight of the iPad 2 on the official specs sheet… you just can’t explain to the average consumer why it had to get a touch heavier…) due to the extra horsepower and battery required to run the Retina display, the screen resolution for the Surface RT (especially) and Pro versions will not even be close:
“The “Full HD display” Microsoft mentions in its spec sheet for the Windows Pro version suggests a 1,920×1,080 pixel resolution. That might also imply a 1,280×720 display (aka 720p) on the vanilla “HD” Windows RT Surface tablet.” – reviews.cnet.com/tablets/microsoft-surface-rt/4505-3126_7-35332494.html
So what we’ll likely have will be a slightly-too-large tablet built to compete with the iPad 2 specs, at the price around the iPad 3 or possibly worse ($400 – $600 range). And a Slate with near Ultrabook specs, but with a too-small-for-laptop-too-large-for-tablet 10.6″ screen. Macbook Airs/Ultrabooks in my view have a sweet-spot in the 11.5-13.5″ range.
And the 11.6″ screen Macbook Air is only 17mm thick at its thickest point, while the Surface Pro will be a 13.5mm slab throughout, not counting the covers with the keyboard and/or keyboard/trackpad options adding between 3 and 5mm, the latter putting it over the thickness of the MBA.
This same 11.6 MBA is priced at $999, right around where the Surface Pro will presumably be priced?! Oh, and another thing that no one I have read so far has addressed: How well do you think that “kickstand” thing on the Surface will work on your LAP?!
4) In summation, even in the realm of vaporware, Microsoft “magically” manages to dream up the worst of all worlds… a tablet that is too-large to be truly mobile, and out of spec (already! wait until the iPad 3S or similar refresh next spring…) with the current main contender, and so far has no 3G/4G option from all we know.
As well as a laptop that is saddled with a netbook-like too-small screen, and a tablet-like Accessories=Afterthought keyboard/kickstand “solution”.
All while managing to tick off their supposed OEM partners, highlighting the elephant in the room of too-expensive Windows 8/RT licensing costs to keep margins competitive on supposed Win8/RT tablets, and appearing generally desperate.
5) So I have to disagree with TechCrunch’s Matt Burns here:
…To me the Surface doesn’t seem like a serious iPad contender but rather a reference design or even a halo device. When released later this year ARM models will likely start around $400-$600 and x86 models will hit closer to $1,000. Even though it will likely never outsell the iPad, the Surface sets a clear standard for HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus. It shows the rest of the industry the proper way to make a Windows 8 tablet. – techcrunch.com/2012/06/18/will-the-microsoft-surface-tablet-redefine-mobile-computing/
To me, if intended as a “halo device”, they have shown the other OEMs precisely what not to do. This “Tweener” is a non-starter, like most overly Tweener devices tend to be.
More hints at the ill-conceived Win8 “halo device” strategy -> businessinsider.com/microsoft-only-selling-the-surface-at-its-stores-2012-6
…Also: “Microsoft Really Punched HP And Dell In The Gut… This is particularly awful for HP. It gutted Palm, dumped its WebOS hardware business, and banked heavily on Windows 8 devices. Now its biggest competition could be Microsoft.” – businessinsider.com/microsoft-hp-dell-surface-partners-2012-6