Surface 2 Announcement Is Today – More Of The Same And A Future Prediction

The pre-release launch or announcement of the Microsoft Surface generation 2 is today at 10:30 EST or 15:30 GMT.  I don’t have a live stream link, if there will even be one.

At this point, “leaks” (personally I think they are deliberate drip feeds to generate interest) have given us a fairly good view of what’s coming in the second generation of Surface:

  • A mini 8” tablet that will be released in 2014
  • Surface RT (aka Surface 2) and Surface Pro (aka Surface Pro 2) will get a new processor and come with Windows 8.1.  No new chassis, etc.  The kickstand will have 2 positions.
  • Some new colours in the keyboards (uhhhh), a cover keyboard with a battery, and a dock-able keyboard.

In other words, mostly more of the same.  The worst rumour of all is that the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will come in at the original release prices of the 1st generation Surfaces.  Yes, the price that everyone said was way too much.

And that’s why we’ve been seeing the Einstein insanity quote over and over and over and over for the last few weeks:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This whole Surface thing makes me wonder if anyone in Redmond has realised that Surface just is not working.

Surface Pro 2

A $999 Surface Pro 2 is essentially an Ultrabook with no battery, a small (6 hours allegedly) battery life, and a now modest storage of up to 128 GB (easily consumed once you install a few programs and sync Skydrive).  Meanwhile entry level Ultrabooks are getting cheaper and the higher end devices leave the Surface behind.  But no, you cry, the Surface Pro 2 is a tablet!

OK, I can get the much-desired iPad 64 GB (to compare like with like) for $699.  But realistically, the 32 GB will be fine and that costs $599, has a 10 hour battery, has lots of apps (apps are more important than programs on a tablet), and has a thriving used market (buy one, use it, sell it, and not lose too much when you buy a newer generation o

ne a year or two later).  As a consumer buy the iPad is way more attractive.  And then there’s the Android tablets that are coming in at an even lower price.

Wait no, the Surface Pro 2 is a hybrid.  And there it fails again because it is unusable as a productivity device on your lap, on a plan in anything lower than business class, and in a train where tables are even smaller than in economy on a short-haul flight.  We’ll see if the new dock-able keyboard solves that, but I suspect it is a hack that will work as well as the third-party iPad keyboard solutions (which suck).

Surface 2

Windows on ARM is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet.  Every third party manufacturer has jumped of the platform – Nokia is effectively Microsoft now so we discount them.  MSFT marketing will scream that ARM is strategic and thriving but it has as much life in it as Windows NT on MIPS processors or Windows Server on Itanium.  And let’s face it, a low spec 32 GB tablet (with 10 GB usable) that costs $499 hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell in selling.  Whey the hell would a person at home who wants a content consumption tablet ever buy a lower spec device when they can get a desirable 16 GB iPad for just $10 more?

Surface 2 needs to drastically increase in spec or cost $250 to have a chance, and even then, that will only work when the app market improves by 500%.  Note that improve is not a statement of quantity but it is a measure of substance and quality.

Dump ARM or Switch To “Sirius”

If I was running whatever the devices organization is called these days in Microsoft, I could trash all efforts on ARM right now.  It was tried and it failed miserably.  Intel Atom is the best bet for low end consumer consumption devices (Haswell Intel Core i is just too expensive and tablets are eating PC’s lunch in retail for the last 18 months).

If I couldn’t dump ARM then I’d stop Surface 2 and switch to the Nokia “Sirius”.  This is a nicer looking 10” tablet that Nokia was working on, also based on Windows RT and was due to be announced around now.  I’d make 2 changes to it:

  1. Increase the storage from 32 GB.  10 GB free space is NOTHING.  It’s $120 no-name Android device territory.
  2. Offer a model that does not include the LTE modem to have a cheaper model.
  3. Increase the screen resolution from the Windows 8 default of 1366 x 768, so the tablet isn’t immediately slammed by consumer reviewers.

The Sirius (codename) costs $499 because it comes with an LTE modem.  Some have said this is too expensive.  Note that adding a modem to an iPad adds $130.


In Q3 next year (Q1 in the Microsoft financial year), Microsoft will announce a stock discount that will make the recent $900m write down look like a drop in the water.  Windows RT will be killed.  Heads will roll.  And all this will happen just after Ballmer steps down at WPC, giving the new CEO the opportunity to clean sweep.  And then someone will do what should have been done 3 years ago: Windows Phone, a non-hybrid OS, will be ported to support consumer (content consumption) ARM tablets.