‘When does 2+1=1?’ Why, Microsoft Surface, of course…never mind that it’s still unreleased

Microsoft has already announced that its newest Windows 8 offering, Surface (note: no “RT”), will be released in January. When, exactly, we don’t know yet.

It’s also going to cost much more than a typical tablet computer–a 64-GB model is $899 and a 128-GB version is $999. This (of course) doesn’t include either the Touch Cover at $120 (the same touch-sensitive raised-membrane style keyboard for the RT), nor the TypeCover at $130 (ditto).

That effectively makes the price $1,019 and $1,129, respectively. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tablet from anyone not named Microsoft that is anywhere close to those numbers and with those features.

Surface is notable in that it actually will run prior Windows apps. Unlike the RT, which was based on ARM-processor technology, the Surface is Intel-based. So, your prior software–if it meets the system requirements–should work.

No one outside of Microsoft that can talk about it (developers sign non-disclosure agreements), and no one else has had more than a few moments with it. So, it’s safe to say that no outside reviewer can claim to have hands-on knowledge of it.

Ah, but that won’t stop them. Remember how Surface RT was released: there was the first nick of its flesh, and the smell of blood permeated the water. Then the sharks were all over it.

Such is the case with PCWorld’s Surface article, by Gregg Keizer. He’s reviewing the device without any hands-on experience using it, people!

Here’s an excerpt:

Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Pro tablet sums up the company’s seeming strategy with Windows 8: That business users can do with one device what they currently accomplish with two.

“The Surface Pro is designed for people who want a premium, thin and light notebook experience but secondarily want a tablet experience,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email.

“The Surface Pro [is] a symbol of Microsoft’s vision with Windows 8, a reference device if you will,” echoed analyst Sameer Singh, of Tech-Thoughts.

The two-in-one strategy runs through Microsoft Windows 8, the operating system whose most distinguishing feature is its split user interface (UI) personality: a traditional Windows-style mode and a touch-first, tablet-centric UI.

It’s no accident that the Surface Pro, unlike its less-expensive sibling, the Surface RT, runs Windows 8 rather than the Windows RT spin-off, and relies on an Intel processor, not one based on the ARM architecture that powers virtually all tablets. Where the Surface RT is limited to tablet-style apps, the Surface Pro runs not only those, but also the enormous library of Windows applications—the same that run, for example, in Windows 7.

Essentially, Microsoft is arguing that customers can have their cake and eat it, too, with a tablet and a PC, in one device, powered by a single operating system. The strategy is at odds with Microsoft’s biggest OS rival, Apple, which maintains two different operating systems for its tablets and personal computers.

But while Microsoft has called its approach “no compromise,” the strategy is, in fact, rife with compromise. The Surface Pro—officially, the name of the tablet is “Surface with Windows 8 Pro”—is neither a tablet nor an ultrabook, but bits of both.

Ultrabooks

“The Pro is an ultrabook, only with more severe design constraints,” said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research, who covers both Apple-made and Windows-powered mobile devices, referring to the Pro’s thin form factor and light weight.

Customers who simply want a notebook/ultrabook replacement are not the Surface Pro’s target. Those users will keep what they have or, when they upgrade, buy another lightweight laptop like Apple’s MacBook Air or any of a growing number of Windows-based options. Instead, Microsoft is betting there’s a large number of business computer users who need—or at least want—a two-in-one device that serves adequately as both notebook and tablet.

The dual roles mean that the Surface Pro is, by nature, expensive. “It’s a premium product at a premium price,” noted Gottheil.

Those prices, which Microsoft revealed last week, speak to the all-in-one strategy as well, because they give the Surface Pro little chance of competing with pure tablets.

Please read the comments at the end. Sometimes these are far better and more informative than the actual article. I’m not going to say that’s the case with this story–that’s up to you to decide.

But one commenter–apresier–said it best:

My point is this, everyone is making judgements about the surface pro, a device they aren’t using because its [sic] not available. How can you critique something you haven’t used? I never heard of this in any other industry.

He even admits that he uses Apple products. Bold move.

I agree with what he’s saying: let’s be fair and at least wait until the device is released before we call it a failure. I mean, I might be jumping all over it when the time comes.

If it is, we’ll know it soon enough. If not..well, there you go.

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