Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, has been designed primarily to be used on tablet devices, to bring the functionality of PCs and laptops closer to that of a tablet device. Microsoft made this decision based on the prediction that fewer and fewer consumers would be purchasing traditional home computers and more consumers would be using tablet devices to perform online tasks. This seems to have been a winning decision, as the latest research from companies including Gartner and IDC indicates that this coming year, the number of new tablet devices sold will be between 166 and 192 million units, significantly more than traditional PCs, and by 2014 even more than currently popular notebooks. The iPad range from Apple, first coming to the market in April 2010 brought tablet computing devices into popularity.
The MSNerds twitter feed often leaks accurate information pertaining to Microsoft’s business and they have recently shed light on three new devices in the Surface Range of tablets. First up is a smaller tablet using Windows RT, with an 8.6 inch display and a Qualcomm processor. A larger Surface Pro, with 11.6 inch display and AMD Temash APU is in development. The switch from Intel to AMD chip could mean a slightly decreased performance, but a far better battery life. The current Intel based Surface Pro model has a comparatively short battery life of five hours, but the newer model should improve on this area significantly. The third device seemingly on the near horizon is a “giant” tablet, with a 14.6 inch screen, called the Surface Note. There are speculative rumors that this device will be engineered around an Intel Haswell chip, the successor of the popular Ivy Bridge processors.
It is likely that the comparatively large 14.6 inch device will have a more realistic type of keyboard attached to the Surface’s cover. A larger keyboard would give room for extra battery backup as part of a docking solution and the Surface Note could be a real competitor to existing “transformer” style laptops with removable touch screens.
The Surface with the 8.9 inch display will be aimed squarely at the budget tablet market, but the flexibility of the designs and the power of the Microsoft operating system and hardware mean that in theory they will be a lot more capable and versatile than the competing tablets. The 11.6 inch device will have the biggest challenge, being in-between two levels of function and form, and closer to the luxury fashion brand of the top end iPads.
When the first wave of Surface tablets were unveiled to the public, many were surprised at just how cool to look at and nicely designed the units were. The tablets make great use of innovative removable and replaceable book-like covers, with built in keyboards and stands. This allows the tablets to be used independently in the same way an iPad would be, and also for it to be put on a desktop and used as a traditional laptop. Closer in hardware to a laptop, the Surface tablets are excellent alternatives. The main hardware problems with them have been battery life and a few minor speed or response issues. These will inevitably be improved with the new versions of the device.
The biggest drawback to the current Surface models is when using them as dedicated tablets, because Microsoft’s App Store currently doesn’t have the variety and scope of either the Android or Apple stores. However, the devices are new and as time goes by, more popular apps will be converted to the system and more new apps will be developed. The new Surface tablets are likely to be well designed, highly desirable devices for those wanting a fun tablet that can also be used for business. If Microsoft can improve their App store, they will have a truly market leading multi-function range of devices.