The Computer Corner
By Charles Miller
Surface, the new Microsft tablet to compete with the iPad
On June 25 2012, with much fanfare at a media event in Los Angeles, Microsoft succeeded in surprising the Information Technology world with the “Surface.” Hard though it is to do in today’s world, Microsoft kept this project secret for three years without a single leak to the outside world.
In a bold departure from Microsoft’s classic business model, the company announced a new tablet designed to compete with the iPad. For those readers who do not recognize the magnitude of this event let me explain that up until last Monday almost every product sold my Microsoft came on a disk. Microsoft absolutely dominates 90% of the computer software market but their Windows OS and other software have always run on computer hardware manufactured by OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) such as Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, etc. The “Surface” is Microsoft’s first serious attempt to enter the computer hardware market.
Invited news media representatives who got to put their hands on these new Surface tablets describe them as being “exquisitely engineered” and “drop-dead gorgeous.” The Surface’s magnesium case is one-tenth of a millimeter thinner than the latest iPad, its screen is 10.6 inches making it a whole inch larger than the iPad; and of course being bigger it weighs more… one whole ounce more.
On the theory that bigger is better, Microsoft unveiled two “Surface” models, the second one built around an Intel processor with enough horsepower to run Windows 8. Now all of my complaints last week about how W8 is just not suited for a desktop or laptop computer user are starting to make sense. Microsoft has been planning for years that Windows 8 would be introduced as a competitor in the tablet market. The larger model Surface with Windows 8 is 4 millimeters thicker and a half pound heaver than its lighter cousin.
Not at all obvious to consumers, the most profound message delivered that Monday was heard in corporate boardrooms of Acer, Samsung, Toshiba and all the other OEMs. Microsoft has been telling computer manufacturers for years to pay attention to what users want in a computer and to concentrate on the user experience, excellence in design, and a few really great models… in other words to be more like Mac and iPad! Instead, the OEMs have pushed out hundreds and hundreds of different model laptops and PCs, some good, some mediocre, few really innovative. With the introduction of the “Surface” tablet Microsoft is firing a shot across the bow of the OEM clone makers in effect saying “You wouldn’t build the kinds of computers we want for our Windows software so we’re going to show you the right way to build a tablet.” The message could not be clearer, and the OEMs are now sure to follow with better and less expensive tablets.
Microsoft has yet to announce when Surface will go on sale, but many industry analysts predict the first quarter of 2013 if not this Christmas season. As to the question of pricing, Microsoft’s press release states “Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive…” Both the first and last words in that quote are music to my ears. While Apple’s iPad exists in a closed ecosystem where no price competition is allowed, the fiercely completive OEM computer market has a history of driving prices for consumer electronics lower every year.
The stage has now been set for OEMs to begin producing tablets with lower costs than ever, and Microsoft is positioning itself to be a part of this. The future of tablets looks bright ahead.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.