Home Your IT Mobility Microsoft puts new gloss on surface

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Microsoft’s update of the under-appreciated Surface RT and very popular Surface Pro tablets will surface in Australia from 22 October. The original design was almost perfect, while Version 2 is about more battery life and power.

Surface RT 2

Windows RT is an operating system designed to run on ARM processors used in lower cost, lightweight tablets. Its prime benefits include Windows look and feel, and a version of Microsoft Office and Outlook included at no extra cost. Its prime disadvantage is that it does not run x86 Windows programs or support some Windows compatible USB devices.

According to retailers, people who bought the original expected “more Windows and less RT.” Retailers frequently said it was a hard to sell against Samsung’s Galaxy Tablets and the Apple iPad, as RT lacked an expansive App store. Now, however, that is changing.

The update includes a 10.6”, 1366x768 screen, 3.5MP front and 5MP rear camera, more speed from nVIDIA’s new Tegra 4 processor, up to 10 hours battery life, full sized USB3.0, and a slightly thinner (9.3mm) and lighter (680g) body. A dual angle kickstand allows both desk and lap use.

Australian pricing for the 32GB/64GB versions is $529 and $639.

Surface Pro 2

Intel’s new Haswell i5, 4th generation, power sipping, core processor is the key change giving faster speed and longer battery life of nine hours. It now has four memory options - 4GB ram and either 64GB or 128GB, 8GB ram and 256GB and 512GB SSD.

It comes with an active, pressure sensitive, pen (Wacom digitiser technology). It works with PowerPoint, PDFs and in Word documents and,we presume, photo-editing, CAD and design programs.

Specifications in brief

  • 1080p, 10.6”, 10-point touch, 16:9 display, optically fused glass.
  • i5 dual core and integrated Intel graphics
  • Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth 4.0, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Compass, (No GPS), Ambient light sensor
  • Microphone, stereo speakers, headphone/mic jack
  • Front and rear 720p cameras
  • 1 x USB 3.0, Mini Display Port, Cover Port
  • 4GB ram standard – 8GB option, 64/128/256/512 SSB
  • 907g, 13.5mm thick
  • 2 years warranty

A good hint. Running Windows and Office will leave you with under 20GB free storage so get as much storage as possible.

Pricing for the Surface Pro 2 is:

Surface Pro 2 64GB + Surface pen – AU$1019

Surface Pro 2 128GB + Surface pen – AU$1129

Surface Pro 2 256GB + Surface pen – AU$1469

Surface Pro 2 512GB + Surface pen – AU$2039

An optional $229.99 docking station turns this into a high-powered workstation. Business features for BYOD applications include BitLocker, Applocker, Group Policy, TPM chip, Windows Defender, Secure Boot, Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), Windows Intune4, and System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM).

Windows 8.1

Both will ship with Windows 8.1 and have free Skype calling to landlines in 60-plus countries, free Skype Wi-Fi where available and 200GB of SkyDrive storage for two years.

Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade for all Windows 8 users. In the tablet arena it has improvements in personalisation, search, multitasking, more built-in apps, cloud connectivity, Xbox Music (streams millions of songs free), an updated Video app, games from the Windows Store such as “Halo: Spartan Assault”, and more.

Accessories

Microsoft have substantially increased the Surface ecosystem

  • Touch Cover 2 (Pro and RT). 2.75 mm thin, backlit keys and a little more rigid with new gesture sensors. AU$139.99
  • Type Cover 2 (Pro and RT). Backlit. Colours - cyan, magenta, purple, and black. It is more rigid for lap use AU$149.99
  • Docking Station (Pro). Includes: external monitor, Ethernet, 1 x USB 3.0 and 3 x USB 2.0, speakers, and power supply. AU$229.99 - early 2014
  • Car Charger with USB (Pro and RT). AU$59.99 - early 2014
  • Power Cover (Pro). Extends battery life by up to 50%. No price or availability yet.
  • Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition (Pro and RT). Bluetooth 3.0 and updated style to match the look of Surface. AU$79.95
  • Surface Pen (Pro). Replacement cost AU$39.99
  • Bluetooth Adapter for Typing Covers (PRO and RT) Converts Touch or Type covers into Bluetooth. No price or availability yet
  • Adaptors. All are $49.99 and include: Mini DisplayPort to HDMI (Pro); Mini DisplayPort to VGA (Pro); VGA (RT); HDMI (RT); and USB Ethernet Adaptor (Pro)

Opinion

Surface RT tablets sales tanked and Microsoft took a real bath, with a nearly $1billion stock write down. Why would Microsoft take that risk again? RTs main crime was that it was misunderstood – a ‘junior Windows’ - but lack of sales is usually a pretty good indicator that the market neither needed nor wanted it. If you add competition from its bigger brother, full Windows – coming on Intel’s new power sipping, Bay Trail Atom based tablets that are likely to sell for under $500 - then RT will still have issues. Microsoft should know better than me and I look forward to observing RT’s success.

Surface Pro’s success is a different story. Sales were held back by distribution issues and perhaps price. Microsoft is excellent at software distribution but Microhard was not.

All Windows users want this iconic tablet, especially the 256/512GB models, although to be fair, there are many innovative and excellent Ultrabook, hybrid, Sliders, and convertibles from Asus, Acer, Sony, HP, Dell, and Lenovo that are very tempting. The jury is still out on whether a tablet and keyboard style cover is as productive as these other formats.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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