Microsoft said plenty about its new range of Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets at this week's event, but left out a lot of detail, essential for informed buying decisions. That information is slowly starting to come to light, and might not help the company's case.
How Much, How Fast, How Long?
Were some of the questions at the top of people's minds after Microsoft's tablet unveiling earlier this week. Now we're starting to get some answers from a mixture of official and unofficial sources. The key issue for buyers and sellers will be price, there is likely to be no tolerance in the market for over-priced tablets.
So the news, according to sources talking to Digitimes, that the ARM-powered version running Windows RT will start at $599 while the Intel-powered Windows 8 edition will start at $799 will, if true, have retailers smacking their heads on the counter. If even the cheapest version is $100 more than an iPad it will be a hard push for anyone to sell.
Surface on the Go
The next big question is over battery life and connectivity, these tablets won't be glued to the desk, will they? Battery life is a big issue, especially on those full Intel-powered versions. Microsoft did mention the Surface's range of battery sizes, which start at around a quarter smaller than their iPad equivalent in the ARM version. Computerworld has done some crunching and thinks that things could be close, depending on use cases, but we'll have to wait for some in-depth testing across systems for the truth to come out.
A clearer cut decision in Apple's favor is connectivity with iPad 3's LTE radio likely to trump the first Surface model's Wi-Fi only specification, according to Bloomberg. If you end up paying even more for a 3G or 4G Surface model, when they emerge, then that's going to stick in the throat of any buyer.
User Buying Power
Ultimately, if you have a compelling reason to run a Windows tablet, then you will either be picking up a Surface device or one of the generic tablets coming from Microsoft's rivals/partners. Any choice will be largely compatible with your apps, data and enterprise's set-up. However, if you have a choice, surely you'd go for the cheaper, longer-lasting, better regarded, more popular and more mature rival.
Sure, these snippets of information are all unofficial and probably subject to change, but it would really be going against history for Microsoft to do this the easy way. Microsoft is infamous for helping launch a range of tablet PCs that never sold, Zune media players that never sold and its Xbox games console is successful only after billions of investment.
Is Microsoft going to throw its money around to make Surface a success, or is this really a big vanity project to nudge others to take up the hard work? iPad and Android should rightly feel challenged by Surface, but now the new kid is out in the open, they have time to adapt and plan to meet that challenge, it should be interesting to see what they come up with.