Microsoft Surface tablet ‘wifi only’
Surface, Microsoft’s tablet computer, is expected to launch this October with a shorter battery life than its rival, Apple’s iPad, and will be wifi-only at first, according to reports.
The tablet computer, announced earlier this week by the technology giant’s chief executive Steve Ballmer, is expected to go on sale without any connection to mobile phone networks as a cost-saving move.
Bloomberg cites two sources “familiar with the matter” who provided the insight, but refused to be named because the specifications of the highly-anticipated iPad rival have yet to be made public.
Ben Barjarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies, a US technology consulting firm, told Bloomberg that the decision to launch with a wifi-only model could be to ensure costs are low – but in doing that – Microsoft could restrict how widely the device could be used.
“The way that Microsoft is positioning this product — that it’s highly mobile but also has the functionality of a notebook – that customer might be more interested in working from any location and not being bound by Wi-Fi,” said Bajarin.
Separately ComputerWorld has estimated that Microsoft’s new Surfact may not match Apple’s iPad on battery life. Notably Ballmer did not reveal how long the battry life of the new device would be during the announcement on Monday – but did disclose the watt hour capacity of Surface’s batteries.
By using the watt hour capacity, ComputerWorld has estimated that Surface battery life span will be seven and a half hours, 25 per cent less than the iPad’s current 10 hours.
Two versions were demonstrated at the press conference earlier this week – one running Windows RT, the new version of Windows that resembles Windows Phone and uses low power processors, and another running the full Windows 8 and using traditional Intel chips.
Microsoft is hoping that its new hardware will allow users to replace their Apple iPads and Windows 7 laptops with new Windows 8 tablets.
Although no prices were announced, some specifications were released. The two devices will be 9.3mm and 13.5mm thick respectively, and both will feature 10.6” HD displays and a kickstand so they can stand up for users to, for instance, watch films. They will weigh 676g and 903g respectively, and also both come with a new case incorporating a thin keyboard. The Pro Version offer up to 128GB of memory, while the RT will come with either 32GB or 64GB.
Reaction to the devices was mixed, with analysts impressed by Microsoft’s attention to detail and industrial design, but many wanting more information on the new devices. Joshua Topolsky, Editor in Chief of technology website the Verge tweeted “I do not think the Surface can be written off”. Prominent Mac commentator John Gruber conceded that Microsoft would sell a lot of its innovative new cases if they made them for Apple iPads.
Microsoft emphasised that the devices were fully fledged computers designed to be used for everything that a computer can offer. In a Microsoft press release, the company claimed “Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out”.
Although Microsoft has a long and largely successful history of making computer hardware such as mice and keyboards, as well as the popular Xbox video games console, it has previously relied on other manufacturers to produce its PCs. Although nobody would comment on how those relationships will be affected, Mr Ballmer said “We want to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovations.
Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg, however, told The New York Times: “Microsoft felt they could not rely on others to deliver on their vision for Windows 8 in mobile computing.”
The devices will take on both Apple’s iPad and the new ‘ultrabook’ laptops that manufacturers are pushing themselves. Microsoft itself has also previously made a large, table-sized computer called Surface, using Samsung.