Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Microsoft announced Windows 8 Surface tablet, shows OEM partners how it is done
The Windows 8 RT Surface tablet will be powered by an NVIDIA Tegra-based ARM chipset. It will be available with either 32 or 64GB capacity and comes with a 10.6" HD touch panel. Microsoft has not announced pricing or availability other than it will be priced similarly to other comparable Windows 8 RT tablets at launch, sometime in September or October of this year.
The more exciting of the two Surface tablets is the (likely to be more) expensive Windows 8 Pro tablet. Again, no pricing has been announced but it is fair to say that it will be priced similarly to an Ultrabook/Macbook Air laptop. Considering it is essentially an Ultrabook convertible tablet, I expect it to be so. Unlike the Surface RT, the Surface Pro will be powered by an all dancing, all singing Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, with capacities ranging from 64 to 128GB.
With the specs and facts out of the way, it is time for some wild speculations. I am going assume that the Surface RT tablet will be powered by either a Tegra 3 4-PLUS-1 SoC or newer next generation Cortex A15-based Tegra. I certainly hope it would be the latter or will be slightly disappointed that Microsoft has not gone for the more modern Qualcomm's Krait-powered Snapdragon S4 rather than the now architecturally outdated Tegra 3.
Price wise, I expect the Windows 8 RT tablet to start from £399 and the Windows 8 Pro slate to start from £699. This is effectively what I would be willing to pay personally for the base model of a tablet with similar specs, and is in line with my expectations on how each should be priced - depending on the built quality of course. Incidentally, a Macbook Air 11 with an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor and 64GB storage costs £849.
As for accusations that Microsoft has essentially sidelined their OEM partners, well tough luck. Hardware partners haven't been exactly doing their bit what with undesirable Windows Phone 7 smarpthones (bar the Nokia Lumia 800 and certain HTC devices) and Windows 7 notebooks. Hopefully this will inspire OEMs to develop something a bit more compelling than the me-too products they have been dumping on the Android market. I am still waiting for Lenovo to announce a Windows 8 ThinkPad tablet product, and if this will spur them to make a better product then so be it.
I am personally very optimistic and excited by Windows 8. Microsoft's foray into dedicated tablet hardware is well overdue. With a design that not only looks original and exciting, all I can say is finally some exciting alternatives to some pretty mediocre Android tablets. It is about time a manufacturer steps up and be willing to offer a decent alternative to the mighty iPad.
As the poster boys for Windows 8, I hope Microsoft doesn't deliberately cheapen the Surface tablets in order to get them on the market for cheap. They are OEMs whose business model revolves around just that. Microsoft would do well to set an example to OEMs via premium quality tablets aimed at promoting Redmond's swinging new OS to first adopters. Bring on Fall 2012!