I pondered for some time if I should write about Microsoft's recently announced Surface device or not. You have probably read all about it on other sites, and maybe even watched the live event or a recording of it as well. What I would like to do is go quickly over what we know, and then voice my opinion on the device.
During the presentation, Microsoft introduced two Surface devices. First Surface RT, which is running Windows 8 RT, a version of the operating system for ARM processors, and then Surface Pro, which is running on Intel hardware and Windows 8 Professional.
Both devices share certain characteristics, like the screen dimension, or peripherals like the touch and type covers, but are fundamentally different otherwise.
Microsoft has not revealed all hardware specs at this point in time, which has led to heavy speculation on the device's battery power, support for 3G/4G, price, and other features that Microsoft did not mention explicitly during the presentation. What we know is the following:
The Microsoft Surface device with Windows 8 RT comes with a 10.6-inch ClearType HD display, either 32 or 64 Gigabyte of SSD storage, USB 2.0 port, microSD and micro HD video ports, a 2x2 MIMO antennae. It weights 676 grams and is 9.3 mm thick.
The Surface Pro device comes with Windows 8 Professional preinstalled. It features a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display, offers 64 or 128 Gigabytes of SSD storage, USB 3.0, a microSDXC and mini DisplayPort video ports, a 2x2 MIMO antennea. It weights 903 grams and is 13.5 mm thick.
I personally see this device as a tablet that can best be compared to Apple's iPad. It is thin,light and mobile, and shares many of the features that one would expect from a tablet device. What makes this interesting however is the fact that it is running Windows 8 RT, which as you may know, ships with Microsoft Office. The tablet does however rely on apps, and apps only, otherwise.
While you get access to certain operating system specific programs like Internet Explorer as well, the majority of applications for this device come from the Windows' Store. It basically means that you can't run your Windows desktop software on the device.
Not everyone needs that on the other hand, and it is similar to how Apple is handling software on the iPad and on Macintosh systems.
This one could be the game changer. It is a PC in a tablet casing, as it can run desktop apps and Metro-style apps, just like any other desktop PC or notebook can. And since it is running Windows, businesses and organizations should have little issues getting it integrated into their existing infrastructure.
You can install and run Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, all your favorite freeware apps, and games on the device. I would not get my hopes up to high to play state-of-the-art games though, but older games could work nicely on the device. It remains to be seen how well it handles resource-intensive tasks though.
The integrated kickstand is a great idea which certainly will please users who sometimes want to position the tablet on a desk or other hard surface. This can be very helpful for video telephony or watching movies or television streams on the device. And since it is integrated, you do not have to carry a kickstand around with you as an accessory.
Microsoft furthermore introduced two covers for both devices that protect the front of the device from damages and the environment, and offer touch or type keyboard access at the same time.
Both covers are attached magnetically to the Surface device and work best on a desk or another flat surface. The difference between the two covers is that the keys on the touch cover are flat, while the keys on the type cover provide tactile feedback.
There is obviously lots of uncertainty when it comes to the Surface family. We do not know the pricing of the devices yet, nor the battery runtime or whether Microsoft has integrated support for 3G or 4G into the device.
I'm personally leaning towards the Microsoft Surface Pro device at this point in time, provided that what we do not know right now about the device is not taking the device down too much.
I do have several reasons for keeping an eye on the Surface Pro device. When I'm traveling, I absolutely hate having to carry around a big bulky laptop. Even the 13inch-something models feel like a burden, and Surface with its sleeker lighter design could really prove to be an alternative for this. And since I can install all my favorite Windows software on it, and have access to a full qwerty keyboard, I can use it for all the activities that I'd use the laptop for otherwise.
I'd obviously need to test the two cover keyboards first before I make a buying decision as it depends a lot on how ergonomic they are.
Some may not like the fact that it is running Windows 8, which I personally do not mind as the OS has been designed with touch in mind, and that is where Surface delivers. It is unknown whether you will be able to install a second operating system on the device, or even replace Windows 8 with a device of your choosing.
As far as price goes, I'd think that Microsoft should at least match the price of a comparable iPad tablet with the Surface RT version. For the Pro version, I'd like to see a price below $800.
What's your opinion on Microsoft Surface?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.