Why Apple should be very worried by the Microsoft Surface
Has Microsoft done the impossible and upstaged Apple’s iPad, while managing to do what RIM failed to do with its PlayBook by nailing the enterprise angle as well?
It’s not everyday that one of the biggest corporations in the world breaks a 38-year tradition but on July 19, 2012, Microsoft did just that with the release of its first ever tablet device, the Microsoft Surface.
With its 10.6-inch display and liquid metal frame, the Surface is evidently aimed at taking the fight straight to Apple’s iPad. But it’s not just your run-of-mill tablet, what Microsoft has come to the table with here is something special – it’s even got a detachable 3mm keyboard and attachable stylus.
Having full Office-support, the Surface is the first real tablet device that’s enterprise ready – take note RIM, this is how it’s done. Couple this with dual-support for both Intel-based Windows 8 and ARM-based Windows RT and it’s even better with both software versions covered. Apple should be worried.
Know Your Mobile spoke with Quo Circa analyst Rob Bamforth ahead of the Microsoft event and he told us that Microsoft needs to fill the enterprise void that exists in the tablet sector – one that’s been missed by Apple, Google, HP. Everybody. Well, looking at the Surface, it’s safe to say that Microsoft has just gone and filled that space.
Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT versions
Office-support, a keyboard, and all the security and enterprise features of Windows 8/Windows RT running on the Surface will be music to the ears of professionals, consumers and businesses alike.
That means one will use Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge chips for a true desktop-like Windows experience, making it essentially a tablet/ultrabook device, and the ARM-powered Windows RT – this one’s the consumer-facing product.
Apple’s iPad cannot complete with this aspect of Microsoft’s Surface proposition. No one else is offering this type of functionality on a tablet device – it’s basically a PC-class device built on tablet principles.
RIM had the golden opportunity to fill this space with its PlayBook. It well and truly missed the boat. Looking at the Microsoft Surface reminds us of the launch of the original iPad. It feels seminal. It feels important. It feels like a game changer – something for both average Joes and enterprise users.
But it’s not just functionality and power where Microsoft has outdone itself. The Surface is a gorgeous-looking device with some truly innovative design features, the most obvious being that detachable 3mm keyboard and kickstand (Windows RT only).
Storage & Price
Surface for Windows RT will come in two storage options of 32GB and 64GB and will be priced in-line with current ARM-based tablets – that means around £400-£500. At this price point and with the features on display inside the Microsoft Surface we think it’s fairly safe to say there’ll be a lot of early adopters.
The Windows 8 Pro Surface is likely to be significantly more expensive, although Microsoft did not wish to discuss price-points during the announcement, saying only that it will have increased storage capabilities (64GB and 128GB), as well as its Ivy Bridge processor, and that it would be priced ‘on par with Ultrabook-grade laptops.’
Here’s a break down of the specs of both devices:
Surface for Windows RT tablet
- Processor: NVIDIA-made ARM chip
- Weight: 676 grams
- Thickness: 9.3 millimeters
- Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD capacitive touch panel
- Battery: 31.5Wh
- I/O: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
- Software: Windows RT + Office Home & Student 2013 RT
- Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand
- Capacity: 32GB / 64GB
- Availability: "Around" the Windows 8 launch (fall 2012)
- Pricing: To be determined
Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet
- Processor: Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge)
- Weight: 903 grams
- Thickness: 13.5 millimeters
- Display: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD (1080p) capacitive touch panel
- Battery: 42Wh
- I/O: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 2x2 MIMO antennae
- Software: Windows 8 Pro
- Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand, Pen with Palm Block
- Capacity: 64GB / 128GB
- Availability: "Three months after" the Windows 8 launch this fall
- Pricing: To be determined
Steve Ballmer on Surface
Microsoft’s CEO had the final word at the LA launch and he did seem very confident with what his company had just unveiled, saying: ‘We took the time to get Surface and Windows 8 right. To do something that was really different and really special.’
He added: ‘we're proud of the Surface like we're proud of Windows 8. Because of Windows 8, the Surface is a PC, it is a tablet... it's something new.’
Microsoft didn’t talk processor speeds or memory at the event but the combination of ARM on Windows RT and Intel Ivy Bridge on Windows 8 Pro will no doubt be ample enough in this respect, particularly the latter.
What’s now abundantly clear is that Microsoft is officially in the tablet business. Looking back over the keynote everything suddenly became clear – the whole Windows 8 strategy suddenly made sense, coming across as modern, innovative and fresh.
Just how Microsoft’s hardware partners – Asus, Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba, Dell and HP – will react to the entry of Microsoft into direct competition with them remains to be seen – none can be pleased, particularly with the increase in Windows 8 licensing fees.
Could this be the device that finally gives Apple’s dominance in the tablet sector something to worry about? Will IDC’s predictions of a Windows-dominated mobile world by 2016 come true? All will become clear in the coming months, but one thing’s definitely certain: things will never be the same in the tablet space again following the arrival of Surface.