Microsoft Introduces Surface 2 – What’s it All Mean?

Microsoft has introduced the successors to its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets. Let’s take a quick look…

surface-2-2I had an idea this was coming. I had heard a few weeks back that Microsoft was (really) planning on releasing an update to its Surface tablet(s). Of course, everything was rumor at the time… I had hopes for both lines. I only got half of what I wanted, and then really, only half of that, so… let’s take a quick look at what Microsoft actually released.
With Surface 2 Microsoft attempted to address many of the issues and concerns that were generated by both Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets. The biggest problems were price and battery life. Microsoft has tried to address both of these issues with the introduction of its Surface 2 line.
Surface 2, the successor to Surface RT will start at $449 for the 32GB version. Surface 2 Pro start at $899 will come in a few additional flavors than originally thought – 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, with the latter costing $1799. All prices are in US dollars.
Surface 2 will also attempt to address battery life concerns cited by many Surface owners and users. The newer versions will have the latest Intel Haswell microprocessors and should double the original Surface’s battery life. Add the battery enabled Power Cover (think Type Cover, with a battery on the bottom) also due to hit the street before the end of Calendar 2013, and battery life for Surface 2 will be in a good spot.

microsoft-surface-2-press-conference-970x0
As far as color schemes are concerned, think silver. There won’t be a black version of either Surface 2 or Surface 2 Pro, according to my friend Mary Jo Foley. Its going to be very easy to distinguish Surface tablets from Surface 2 tablets.
Both Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets, and most of their accessories are expected to be available for order on 2013-09-24 at 8am ET.

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Smaller MS Surface – What it Needs to Succeed

For MS to make a difference in the tablet market, it needs to think about how it approaches its smaller

Microsoft-Surface-RT7Adrian Kingsley-Hughes had a good article published on ZDNet the morning of 16-May-2013 speaking about how price, not size, is going to determine the success or failure of Microsoft’s rumored 7″ Surface tablet. He’s right; but I think there’s more to it than just price. There are 3 areas that MS has to address, not just 1:

PriceLet’s be clear, as Kingsley-Hughes goes into great detail in his article – Surface RT stars at $499. Surface Pro starts at $899. The iPad mini and Kindle Fire HD are similarly sized tablets that have starting prices of $329 and $199 respectively. For this tablet to be successful, the 7″ Surface needs to be priced under $300; but seriously, the lower priced the better.
Windows RT not Windows 8The 7″ Surface should be a content consumption device and NOT a small ultrabook like its larger Surface RT and Surface Pro siblings. In order to hit the lower price points I’ve outlined above, the device needs to shy away from x86 microprocessors. They’re too expensive and don’t provide enough storage or battery life.The smaller tablets are more appropriate as a content consumption device – media players, eBook readers and the like – as opposed to a very small ultrabook. In order to make sure this happens and happens well, Windows RT needs a fundamental change. It needs to be more tablet-centric as opposed to Windows-centric. Windows RT needs to lose Desktop mode and most – if not all – of its familiar desktop Windows paradigm elements. Windows RT needs to be a tablet specific OS. The sooner it does this, the better off it will be; and the better chance it has to being accepted by a Windows familiar public.
Nook or Not; and if Not, then What?There’s been some speculation that Microsoft would buy all of the Nook digital assets from B&N. There are a number of different reasons on both sides of the issue – for and against – the acquisition of the assets as well as developing a version of Windows RT that will run on the ARM-based Nook tablets.If MS does buy the Nook digital assets and doesn’t modify Windows RT to run on the Nook (which may actually be the 7″ Surface tablet we’ve heard about…), then it doesn’t make a lot of sense for them to acquire the assets, at least in my opinion. If they don’t buy Nook, then you really have to wonder what new hardware device is going to be introduced to the market. It also calls into question the price and OS version concerns I’ve outlined above.

Microsoft has a lot of hoops to jump through to make a 7″ Surface tablet work for them. Time will tell if they get it right.

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We Have Seen the First Windows RT Tablets

…and they’re SERIOUSLY overpriced. Let’s take a quick look at what this really means.

It was recently announced on ZDNet that a leaked ASUS roadmap indicates that the hardware manufacturer will be releasing three Windows 8 based tablets. The tablets will be making an appearance near the 2012 Holiday buying season. Pricing for the tablets is a bit on the unreasonable side.

The entry level, Windows RT based ASUS Vivo Tab RT (TF600T) starts at $599. The mid-level ASUS Vivo Tab (TF810C) starts at $799. Both the TF600T and TF810C can make use of a keyboard based docking station for an additional $199. The high end ASUS Taichi is a tablet/notebook hybrid with a dual screen and attached keyboard that starts at $1299.

With Android tablets, like the Kindle Fire HD starting at $299 for the Fire HD 7″, and the well-established, market leader, Apple iPad 2 starting at $399, ASUS’ has priced itself out of the market. Regardless of how awesome these devices may be, there’s no way they’re going to gain any traction. Unfortunately, they’re going to be non-starters if these prices stick.

With ASUS’ Windows 8 offerings effectively non-players, Microsoft’s Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets become increasingly more relevant. The tablets are set to be produced and sold at a loss; and while MS can afford it, other OEM’s like ASUS can’t. ASUS is an untried business brand, and these devices, especially the dual functioning Taichi, aren’t priced to compete.

ZDNet’s Larry Dignan thinks that “consumers will balk at these tablet prices and either opt for a laptop or go with a cheaper tablet such as Apple’s iPad or any variety of Android.”

I totally agree. The technology here is pretty cool, but Windows RT and Windows 8 in and of itself, is supposed to be targeted at a much lower priced device. Consumers aren’t going to pay $599 for an untried, MS-based tablet, competing in an Apple dominated market.

The roadmap that was leaked was preliminary and the product offering, specs and prices of the devices are totally up in the air. It could all change before Windows 8 is made available in about 5 weeks or so, as of this writing. However if it doesn’t , not only will the devices be short lived, but it’s going to shorten the relevance of Microsoft’s Windows 8, and in the long run, that’s not what MS wants to see.

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