Microsoft is taking aim at corporate America with the upcoming Surface Pro tablet. Currently, road warriors and frequent flyers make due with iPads or occasionally an Android tablet. I’m not saying the iPad is a poor choice, it is the current market leader, but to use it as a desktop replacement takes some work.
Apple does not have a true Microsoft Office replacement and the 3rd party apps do not perform well for advanced Office work. CloudOn is one of the better options, but requiring a constant Wi-fi or cell connection makes it non functional at times. Quick Office and Documents to Go both offer an alternative, but it still isn’t the Office you are used to on the desktop. Trying to view and edit more than a single document at a time is cumbersome.
Many corporate types are using a remote desktop app on their iPad to get back to their desktop or docked laptop. If they are lucky enough to be using a host VMware or Citrix virtual setup, then the iPad works great. It functions like a touch screen Windows device for work and a regular iPad for everything else. This system can be costly to setup at a business level; however, it is still bypassing the tablet interface to get to the Windows OS. These environments exist because it can be a major pain to not be using Windows or Mac OS X.
The Surface Pro will have a full version of Windows 8 like a desktop or laptop. Regular PC software will run native on the tablet. This is the game changer for Microsoft. IT staff and consumers will not have to worry about getting a 3rd party app or a file system to play nice on a network. You will be able to load that proprietary accounting program or the company ERP software, just as if it was an office desktop. Printing won’t have to bring worry about being iPrint capable or having a compatible printer with the ever changing 3rd party apps. Google has the same issue and the Chrome cloud print option works well, but it still is not as easy as it should be.
The 64GB version will start at $899 not including the well received keyboard. Don’t allocate all that extra storage just yet. The OS will consume nearly 16GB leaving the end user with around 48GB worth of usable storage. The 128GB version will be $999 and comes with the same surface pen stylus and no keyboard.
The other specs will sound very similar to a low end laptop. The screen is a 10.6 inch 1920×1080 HD display that will have a 16:9 ratio. The 3rd generation Core i5 Intel processor is packaged with Intel HD Graphics 4000. 4GB of ram is included along with a Mini Display Port that can output a 2560 x 1440 resolution.
A final key spec is the included full size USB 3.0 port that can be used for printing, a mouse or a thumb drive for quick backup. Microsoft will not force you to save to the cloud or rely on email for sharing documents of any kind.
Price will be a big factor for the Surface. While specs and price are similar to Ultrabooks or the MacBook Air, it is still just a tablet. Recent desktop and laptop sales have been overpowered by the cheaper and less functional tablets. Microsoft’s Surface Pro appears ready to compete with the highly portable Ultrabooks.
The popular MacBook Air comes in at the same price as the Surface Pro with the added keyboard. The screens are within .2 inches of each other, but the Surface has a much higher resolution. Along with that resolution comes a full 10 point touch screen. Each pack an Intel i5 with 4GB of ram.
A MacBook air will get around 5 hours of battery life, but per a Microsoft Twitter account, the Surface should get around 4.5 hours of use. In addition to the fully usable USB 3.0 port, the Surface includes a MicroSDXC card slot for extra storage or reading camera cards. Each boasts Bluetooth 4.0 and a stereo headset jack. A full feature operating system on the Surface could be icing on the cake to finally compete with Ultrabooks in a business environment.
It will all come down to Windows 8 performance for the future of the Surface Pro. If Windows 8 is another Windows ME or Vista, then the tablet could have a short life. Microsoft seems to be turning a corner with the looks of Windows 8, but how long will it be relevant?
Microsoft Surface takes on the iPad
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Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Announced
Microsoft has announced that their Surface tablet running Windows 8 pro will be hitting the shelves in January, with the device being priced in the US at $899. That’s $100 less than an 11in MacBook Air but a whole $400 more than the latest iPad.
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