Surface 2 Package Versus Laptop & Tablet Combination

I read Paul Thurrot’s Surface 2 pricing article and I was startled when I started adding up the pieces for a solution I would want:

  • Surface Pro 2 (128 GB): $999
  • Docking station: $199.99
  • Power Cover: $199.99
  • Monitor: $250
  • Total: $1648.98

I have not included the cost of managing 1 device, for example, a System Center Client Management License, a Volume License “upgrade” for Windows. 

This solution is intended to be a single device solution: the Surface Pro 2 is:

  • The tablet: with the Power Cover providing somewhere between 10-12 total battery hours
  • The PC in the office: with docking station and monitor
  • The laptop: with the Power Cover providing the keyboard

Note: Windows Intune and Office Pro Plus (via Office 356) are per user licenses for up to 5 devices.  There’s no point in adding these because quantity of devices for comparison purposes does not matter – I am still one person requiring one license for Intune and one license for O365, whether I have 1 device or 5 devices.

How does the above package compare with a more traditional solution with a laptop/tablet package?

  • HP EliteBook Folio 9470m (500 GB / 8.5 hrs battery): $1049
  • Toshiba Encore (8” Windows 8.1 tablet): $329
  • Monitor: $250
  • Total: $1628

I went with a “thin and light” business laptop from HP and chose one of the more economic options.  Quite honestly, you could go for a traditional laptop and pay $649 or spec up and pay $1858.  I chose the Toshiba tablet because they were the only name I saw (without much search effort to be honest) that I would associate with business customers.

So how do we compare:

  • The Surface Pro 2 solution with the Power Cover has more battery life than the pre-Haswell HP laptop.  I’m sure a Haswell laptop could correct this, but it seems like lots of OEMs so far (based on IFA announcements) have been lazy or skimming the battery because advancements, more often than not, are not as good as expected.
  • The laptop/tablet person has twice as many chargers to lose, and stuff to carry.  If they leave the laptop behind then they have trouble typing.  Note: typing on the lap, even with the new kickstand, will continue to be impossible.  If the old kickstand went beyond my knees, then a kickstand that sticks out more solves that … exactly how?  Has Surface perfected the warping of space?  Can I use one near the Large Hadron Collider without causing a black hole?
  • The pricing is not that different in the package.  Spec down the laptop and the business spends less.  Spec up the laptop and the Surface package is more efficient – my gut tells me this is the more realistic scenario of the 3.
  • Sync has become an issue: One Surface = one set of files.  2 devices and I need to Sync.  Sure, I’ll have Skydrive … and Skydrive Pro, and Workplace Folders … and isn’t it confusing now?

As a business user, I like the “one Surface” option, economically speaking.  As a user, I’m probably going to go with PC (for photo editing), ultrabook for mobile productivity, and 8” tablet (of some OS kind, and leaning towards iPad Mini with Cellular) because I do like to use the right tool for the job rather than a generalist solution.

I don’t consider the Surface Pro as a solution for me.  The device cannot be used on a lap unless you are 6-5 tall.  I know I’ll get the usual tweet from the usual 1 or 2 Surface fans on this.  I’ve tried it (we have an RT and a Pro here).  The new hinge just cannot solve the typing with a keyboard issue – the laws of physics are pretty clear.  I want a detachable clamshell keyboard with a stiff hinge that gives me a laptop/hybrid solution.  And why oh why doesn’t the Surface keyboard stay shut with magnets?  Why do I have to hold it closed?

Anyway, while the Surface Pro 2 is not for me, I do see it being viable for many business users if they go down the 1 device for users, rather than the traditional “here’s a PC, here’s a laptop, and here’s a tablet” approach that has evolved.

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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.

Some More Windows 8 On ARM (WOA) News

Here’s a follow up to this morning’s initial WOA post.  That Build Windows post was another Sinofsky classic (l-o-n-n-n-g-g) so I think we’ll be spending quite some time piecing it all together.  It also appears that Sinofsky has done a number of interviews/conferences that add more detail.

The first is via Mary Jo Foley who says that Ina Fried said that:

… the only Desktop Apps that will be allowed on the Desktop on Windows on ARM will be Office 15 and elements of the Microsoft operating system.

Interesting.  That reinforces the point that if you want an app to run on WOA, it must be a Metro app, and you must download/buy it from the Microsoft online store.  But, we know that Metro app will work on

Mary Jo also says that WOA will release simultaneously with the x86/x64 editions of Windows 8.  That is surprising to me.  Everything we had heard said it would be much later.  That made sense to me because we’re talking about a new compile and a new type of hardware for many manufacturers.  I guess the likes of Samsung, Asus, etc, all have plenty of experience in the Android space that can carry over.  And I guess MSFT’s own testing must have gone very well (if you’ve read Showstopper then you know have a tiny clue on how they stress this stuff).

EDIT #1:

And just as I post, Simon Bisson posted his story on a Sinofsky phone conference.  Simon says that Microsoft:

… plans to bundle its own Metro-style applications on ARM devices, including Mail, Calendar, Photo Gallery, Storage and a set of media players. All applications — including those from third-party developers — will be delivered from Microsoft’s app store or via Windows Update, with no other ways to install code.

He adds that Sinofsky confirmed:

All the updates — whether it’s for firmware, drivers or apps — will only come through the Windows Update or Microsoft Update infrastructure and the store.

As for the upcoming Consumer Preview:

… will only be for Intel and AMD hardware.

Don’t get stressed about trying to get one of the new WOA “TAP” tablets.  Odds are we’ll see leaked images soon enough.  Apparently the devices are very rough and ready, just enough for developers to get working and testing and not consumer ready at all.

Check out Simon’s post for more info.

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Many Questions Answered By Microsoft About Windows on ARM, And More Asked

At 6pm Irish time last night, the official Build Windows blog sent tech journalists into a tizzy.  Microsoft finally started getting into some specifics about Windows on ARM (WOA), the Windows 8 on system-in-a-chip solution that will be the Microsoft tablet – BTW please stop calling slate PCs tablets because they are clearly not!

Look And Feel

This is the same OS as for the PC/laptop/slate.  The compilation will be different because there are different processor instruction sets.  People who know ARM better than I do (almost nothing) say that each manufacturer will require their own build.  That’s because there really is no single ARM CPU like Intel or AMD.  It’s an intellectual property that is licensed out to companys like Nvidia and Snapdragon to build their own CPUs.  If you own a smartphone or tablet, then you have a strong chance of owning one of these processors already.

You will sign in the same way. You will start and launch apps the same way. You will use the new Windows Store the same way. You will have access to the intrinsic capabilities of Windows, from the new Start screen and Metro style apps and Internet Explorer, to peripherals, and if you wish, the Windows desktop with tools like Windows File Explorer and desktop Internet Explorer. It will have the same fast and fluid experience. In other words, we’ve designed WOA to look and feel just like you would expect. WOA enables creativity in PC design that, in combination with newly architected features of the OS, will bring to customers new no-compromise experiences.

Metro App Mobility

Metro apps aren’t compiled for CPU instruction sets like traditional executable programs.  That means that they are mobile.  They can run if they find WinRT in the OS,  WinRT is a key piece of Metro UI and its present in all Windows 8 builds.  That means an app developed on a Windows 8 will run on a Windows 8 tablet with no probem.  We might guess that this holds true for Apollo, the next version of Windows Phone which is actually Windows 8, and not an evolution of Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango).

Metro style apps in the Windows Store can support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64.

They go on to say:

WOA can support all new Metro style apps, including apps from Microsoft for mail, calendaring, contacts, photos, and storage. WOA also includes industry-leading support for hardware-accelerated HTML5 with Internet Explorer 10. WOA will provide support for other industry-standard media formats, including those with hardware acceleration and offloading computation, and industry-standard document formats. In all cases, Microsoft seeks to lead in end-user choice and control of what apps to use and what formats to support.

Office “15” Support

There as been a lot of pointless debate about this since Steve Ballmer uttered a couple of sentences at a stockholder meeting during //Build.  We in the public knew nothing.  I suspect the TAP members either found out last week or last night like us.  Remember that Office is old Sinofsky country and operates just like Windows does now.

WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These new Office applications, codenamed “Office 15”, have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption, while also being fully-featured for consumers and providing complete document compatibility.

What does “includes” mean?  I really really doubt that Microsoft are including their cash cow for free.  Not even Sinofsky has that sot of swing inside Microsoft.  Every now and then the licensing folks “include” something for “free”.  For example, the VDI Standard/Premium suites include Hyper-V … go look at what that really is and it’s actually the already free Hyper-V Server.  Gee thanks mistah!

Office is already on the Net as SaaS in a lighter form factor.  I bet it runs nice in IE10 as a pinned app Winking smile

What we know is that Office will support touch.  The recent TAP announcement told us about a new Radial control that is more touch friendly than they teeny tiny ribbon controls.

The Desktop

I am one to say I told you so, so there!.  It’s ludicrous to even imagine that Microsoft could ditch the access route to managing and configuring 80% of the machine’s features by not giving us a desktop.  The Metro Control Panel is a great start, but that’s all it is right now; a start.

WOA supports the Windows desktop experience including File Explorer, Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, and most other intrinsic Windows desktop features—which have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption.

Where Can You Get Hardware?

A “limited” number of people will be made available to developers and hardware partners.  So no, you will not be able to download the Consumer Preview on Feb 29th and install it on a tablet.


They mention that there will be a single SKU, so no starter, professional, or enterprise versions of WOA.  The features will be tweaked accordingly.  This is where marketing can make or break the product for consumer and business use  The seriously need to include “better together” technologies such as BitLocker and DirectAccess t make WOA a business friendly tablet to get an edge over iPad which is starting to sell in huge amounts to the enterprise.

Social Apps

It’s the little things that make or break a tablet for the consumer, and choice is important.

We have also previously demonstrated Microsoft’s new Metro style apps for connecting to cloud-based services like Hotmail, SkyDrive, Messenger, and— through those services—a wide variety of third parties. For example, our mail app connects to industry-standard EAS, which covers an array of enterprise and consumer-based mail, calendaring, contacts. With existing Live Connect capabilities, you can chat with your Facebook friends, or keep up-to-date on your LinkedIn or Twitter feeds all in a Metro style app—these are just a couple of examples of over 100 different services globally that you can connect to your Microsoft account. These apps are provided with WOA, but of course, people can remove these, set different defaults, or use the Windows Store to get similar apps from third parties.

Battery Life is Everything In A Tablet

ARM is built for this sort of thing, that’s why I get fussy about the lazy misuse of the word tablet instead of slate PC.  WOA understands the importance of battery life:

One of the new aspects of WOA you will notice is that you don’t turn off a WOA PC. WOA PCs will not have the traditional hibernate and sleep options with which we are familiar. Instead, WOA PCs always operate in the newly designed Connected Standby power mode, similar to the way you use a mobile phone today. When the screen is on, you have access to the full power and capabilities of the WOA PC. When the screen goes dark (by pressing the power button or timer), the PC enters a new, very low-power mode that enables the battery to last for weeks. All along, however, the system dynamically adjusts power consumption and is always on the lookout for opportunities to reduce power to unused parts of the system

Can You Run Old Programs on WOA?

In a word: no.

Previously we have detailed that WOA will not support any type of virtualization or emulation approach, and will not enable existing x86/64 applications to be ported or run.

That means your old programs must run on Intel/AMD Windows machines.  Or maybe you can publish them via RDP to WOA?

They also say:

In fact, WOA only supports running code that has been distributed through Windows Update along with the full spectrum of Windows Store applications … If you need to run existing x86/64 software, then you will be best served with Windows 8 on x86/64.

That will make management via Configuration Manager rather … interesting.  I wonder if there will be ties into the new store for software distribution?

The Build Windows blog article is a very long post.  I’ve written this while waiting for a meeting and I’m heading into it now.  There’s more detail and more on app development and hardware that you can read.

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Mobile Device War – It’s Like the 1980s All Over Again

I was a Commodore 64 boy.  I had friends who had the Amstrad 464 machine (the one with the tape drive built in).  I also knew people with a Spectrum 48.  Those were some bitter rivalries.  But it was nothing like the next generation of machines.  Atari ST owners (like me) gloated about our faster 3D graphics over the Commodore Amiga folks.  The Commodore machine had that built in MIDI interface (making it the darling of the music crowd) but that maths coprocessor was seen as a bottleneck in the gaming magazines.  We both looked on at the amazing Acorn Archimedes hardware specs but it cost a fortune and had only a few games available.  You can forget Linux VS Windows or VMware VS Hyper-V!

And it’s all starting again.  iPhone VS Andriod with WP7 trying to get involved, and Blackberry clinging onto its government/corporate market.  Android seems to be taking the lead in device sales, but Apple still has the best quality ecosystem.  Amazon could have a big say in the Android world with their App Market (note Apple are suing them over the use of that term, even though Steve Jobs used to throw “App Store” around like an insult).  The IDC talk about 2-3 years down the road is doubted by the stock markets: they’re critical of corporate leadership and are shying away from Microsoft/Nokia stock.  Check their stock prices over the last few years.

Where things are really interesting is the tablet.  Apple cannot make the iPad2 fast enough to meet demand.  The only reason their sales this year of those devices is “disappointing” is because there is a huge order backlog.  Apple are making money as if they were printing it.  Android powered devices are popping up all over.  Samsung make some interesting machines and the Motorola Xoom is a hot device for geeks right now.  Microsoft are a non-factor with Windows 7, despite what some employees have to say.  Windows 8 on ARM processor tablets could be a whole other story.  If Microsoft can get the interface right (and they have a foundation in WP7) then they can bring compatibility, integration, and manageability to the tablet in the business market.  Amazon are another one to watch.  It’s known that they are building an Android tablet.  Maybe it’s a new Kindle and maybe not.  But they could suddenly rival Apple in no time at all.  Look at how many people own Kindles.  You see them on the bus/train/plane as often as you see an iPad.  Imagine if they ran Android.  And now throw in Amazon’s App Store and their unrivalled access to content and delivery … do they suddenly become the best ecosystem out there?

So who will be the Commodore 64 of the tablet wars, offering the best package?  Who will be the just as popular but less capable Spectrum 48?  And who will be the red-headed stepchild Amstrad 464 that you were disappointed to find when you opened your Christmas present wrapping?