Today’s announcement of Microsoft’s Surface tablets (bonus points for slapping the paddles on a failed product name – I heard it was a toss-up between this and “Zune”) had all the trappings of an old-guard vaporware product – no ship dates, no prices, nebulous specs. The curious thing about it is the market for the product has been defined and thoroughly owned by Apple. I mean – what’s the rush, guys? Is making people wait 3 months for a whiff of your offerings (the Windows RT version is said to be available around when Windows 8 ships – which is rumored to be in the Fall – viva la Microsoft anuncio del producto!) really freezing anything? I guess old habits in Redmond die hard. These guys can’t just ship anything they think is groundbreaking – they have to announce its chalk outline months ahead of time.
Speaking of mysterious, Microsoft has made a couple of bizarre decisions in differentiating its 2 offerings. The Windows RT tablet, which features the low-power ARM processor, is what I assume is supposed to be the iPad competitor. I imagine the Windows 8 Pro tablet, which sports a snappy (read: expensive) Intel i5 processor, is supposed to be the realization of Bill Gates’s dream of the “real” Microsoft tablet. Both versions sport a 10.6″ screen. The Pro version will, however, have a 1080p screen while the RT version will have a downgraded 1366 x 768 – both of which are guaranteed to look like dog shit compared to the iPad 3’s Retina Display. The differences also extend to the I/O: the Pro is pimped out with USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort, and the RT is slumming with USB 2.0 and Micro HD Video. Once you thought you had the Pro/no Pro theme down, Microsoft throws this curveball: included with the RT is a version of Office (Office Home & Student 2013 RT) that doesn’t come with the Pro version. The RT also has a decided weight advantage: it’s over 125 grams lighter – the weight of a roll of pennies. The RT weighs in at 676 gram (about 10 grams heavier than the iPad 3) vs. a chunky 903 grams for the Pro model. Both models come with a knock-off Logitech keyboard case attached by – what else? – magnets! Looking at the profile of the keyboard, known as the Type Cover, it looks key travel may be kind of static, but with the limited look Microsoft provided today, it’s tough to be conclusive, which for some reason is how Microsoft prefers things. The Pro also comes with a pen for input, so Gates, like elderly LA Kings fans, can die happy.
One thing Microsoft did “right” was yank the hardware production away from the Acers and Asuses and keep it under its control – like a small Cupertino company has been doing for approximately forever. The Catch-22 here is – if you’re Microsoft – once you start fucking over your OEM partners, things tend to get icy real quick. But Microsoft’s OEM
suckers suppliers tend to have the memory of that guy from Memento, so they have that going for them. Time will tell whether it was the right choice for Microsoft. Judging by the schizophrenic products announced today, I don’t know that Redmond put its best foot forward.