Monday, September 23, 2013

Surface 2 Surfaces - Microsoft's Quiet Launch, But Looks Promising

I'll be first to admit this.  When Surface came out, I thought it was promising.  It was going to get Apple and Microsoft to go head-to-head in the tablet market.  I'll admit this. It has been stagnant.  And look at how long since Apple has released a real update.  That was last spring in 2012 with the iPad 3.

And Android tablets are not lighting the world on fire.  Sure, lots of sales in the low-end but Apple still dominate the money share and the tablet app market as well.

So, I'm glad that Microsoft has decided to stick with Surface.  Then again, it's not like it has any other choices.  This is do-or-die for Redmond.

With Surface 2, Microsoft has something that Surface last year should have.  A real feel of mobile that the Surface just didn't have.  Even when Apple came out with the original iPad in 2010, you can see that it was a very polished device.  No so with Surface.

With Surface 2, both the RT and Pro version, you have better software as well as specs that could really let apps loose.  And check out this Surface cover just for music creators  (Engadget).

As far as specs, the RT's biggest improvement is the screen.  Microsoft tried to pull a fast one on us with the lame screen in last year's model.  No one believed them for a second.  Not even die-hard fans could say it was a good screen.  It was a 2000 resolution.  Today, Surface 2 sports a 1080p screen.  

More importantly, the battery life on both models has greatly increased.  Even the Haswell-based Pro 2 has around 8 hours of use.  Not bad for a laptop-like tablet.  Ball is in your court, Apple.

And on top of that, there is a $50 price cut from the entry price last year at $450 for the RT version (TheVerge).  What makes more sense is the storage which starts at 32 GB for $450 and 64 GB for $550.  You have to realize that you're not getting all that storage because Microsoft's OS and apps takes up around half of that.

Here's what's interesting.  The new Surface will be out 10/22.  This will be around when Apple updates its iPad lineup.   And this time though, Apple will have iWork for the iPad. While Microsoft will continue to crow about how its RT Surface has Office, it still might not be enough to unseat Apple.  At least not this year.

If history is any indication as in the case of Surface, Zune, and other failed products, it is that Microsoft's first version of anything is almost always a fail.  Sometimes, even the second. However, it keeps coming and coming until it has something that works well enough.  Look at IE and Xbox.  Windows and Office as well.

I'm not counting Microsoft's Surface 2 out at all.  I think it could be a commercial success if Microsoft does away with stupid cover commercials and continues its assault on the iPad with its current commercials that compare the Surface to the iPad.  This could be even more interesting with the Surface Pro 2.

But I don't think Apple has been sitting on its hands for the last 18 months.  I'm eager to see what Tim Cook's iPad will look like and what it can do.  From the looks of things, the iPad intro event will focus on iWork and iOS 7.  That could be enough to put Surface 2 out of the minds of regular mobile warriors.  In fact, I'm very interested to see if Apple somehow leverages the A7 chip, its new 64-bit process that is currently sitting in the iPhone 5s, to greatly enhance productivity.

How about Android fans?  Any love from Google on this front?  It's hard to see that at this point other than Kitkat that we can look forward to.  Google did just make Quickoffice free (CBS). But I'm sorry to say that it's more of a "me too" move.  Where Google can really make a splash is if it can get more tablet specific apps from third-party developers.

It'll be an interesting October and Christmas shopping reason.  For Microsoft, even as the iPad dominates sales, if it can get Surface 2 into the minds of some consumers, that could be all it needs now.

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