Microsoft’s introduction of its Surface tablet.
The big question is, does it stand up to the hype? The answer, succinctly, is yes.
There are two different covers for the Microsoft Surface tablets revealed, both of them able to cover up and protect the front of the tablet but each of them with different abilities in their keys. The biggest difference between the two is the way the keys work while the Type Cover has moving keys while the Touch Cover is capacitive instead.
The Touch Cover is also a bit thinner, while the Type Cover will likely cost a bit more and both have been introduced right alongside the Microsoft Surface tablets as their best companions.
The Surface tablets are smart, good-looking, carefully considered, well-built, slick pieces of kit and there’s nothing even close on the market today. Of course, they’re not on the market today either, but unless the PC OEMs inject a serious dose of quality in their build and design processes, the Surface units will stand alone when they eventually go on sale.
Surface has a screen that measures 10.6 inches diagonally, compared to 9.7 inches for the iPad, but it comes in the 16:9 aspect ratio, which is suited to watching video in the widescreen format. The iPad’s screen size ratio is 4:3.
The more hands-on approach with its tablet indicates that Microsoft either lacks confidence in the ability of its PC partners to design compelling alternatives to Apple’s iPad or it believes it needs more control to ensure Windows plays a major role in the increasingly important mobile computing market.
Now that some of the specs are leaking, though, it appears that the Surface will have a few noticeable blemishes.
If the first batch of speculative specs are indeed true, the Surface will be initially released as a Wi-Fi-only tablet. Users will not have the option to connect via their mobile phone network. More significantly, other reports say the Surface will be more expensive than the iPad.
Bloomberg reported Friday that the Surface tablet will be introduced as a Wi-Fi only model, meaning that users can only surf the web when in range of a wireless network. The report is sketchy on whether later Surface upgrades may include mobile phone network connectivity, and Microsoft might not even have decided this yet themselves.
This connectivity issue may or may not be a scratch on the Surface. After all, people pretty much use Wi-Fi networks whenever they connect to the internet with a tablet. A Localities study earlier this year showed that only 6% of iPad connections are conducted via 3G or 4G mobile phone networks. Tablet users realize that this sort of thing tends to wreak costly havoc on one’s data plan.
Speaking of costly havoc, the first Surface pricing reports indicate this baby won’t come cheap. In fact, it may be more expensive than the iPad. TheNextWeb quotes “a source close to Microsoft” saying the Surface will cost $599 for the low-end model, and $999 for the Windows 8 Pro model. That new iPad with the crazy-high-res Retina display starts at only $499.
In Microsoft’s defense, the lowest-end Surface comes with 32 GB of storage. The most affordable iPad has only 16 GB. So there is some justification for the higher price tag.
John Koetsier over at VentureBeat has an interesting theory — he wonders if Microsoft is just screwing around with us. They may be planting rumors of higher price points just to make the actual price points seem more affordable. “One Microsoft strategy I would not at all discount would be leaking rumours of high prices now in order to make consumers feel better about reasonable-if-not-cheap pricing revealed later,” he writes.
Again, these are just unconfirmed rumors. Microsoft isn’t saying much on the Surface web page, other than, “Coming Soon.”