Yesterday Microsoft announced two new Surface tablets and a set of accessories designed to help its more expensive tablet-hybrid slot into enterprise business environments. The new Surface Pro 2, the Power Cover, and the docking station form a trio of products that Microsoft hopes will drive corporate sales of its hardware.
Microsoft’s new tablets are now up for pre-order, though the Power Cover and dock will not be released until the early part of next year.
It’s worth noting the price of the get-up, however. The Surface Pro 2, sans any accessory, starts at $899 in its most basic format. That SKU has a modest 64 gigabytes of internal storage. The highest-end Surface Pro 2, with 512 gigabytes of storage, costs $1,799, or double the price of its cheapest build.
The docking station and the Power Cover will cost another $199 apiece when they are released. Therefore, to pick up the flagship Surface Pro 2 SKU, along with the hardware that Microsoft is building for the extension of its use inside the corporate realm, you will spend three dollars under the $2,200 mark. That’s a high price.
Essentially the only people who will buy this stuff will IT managers running enterprise lashups. Or people working in, contracting to, or developing for, enterprises.
Further, it’s really an ultrabook, not a hybrid. As a tablet it weighs two pounds, and that’s just too damned heavy for comfort, especially with those sharp corners and the 16×9 display. Microsoft is trying to back away from calling it a tablet, choosing to hedge by saying it’s a PC in a tablet form factor. But it isn’t in a tablet form factor.
A true hybrid should be equally at home – and functional – as both a tablet and a PC. The beauty of Windows 8.x is that it is designed to work well with both tablets and PCs. This works well as a PC, but is nothing terribly special as such.
I’m not even going to go in the direction of Surface 2 (formerly RT) because its problems are the opposite. It works fine as a tablet, using Win 8′s Metro interface, but due to its inability to run legacy Windows apps other than Office, it sucks as a PC. And given the weaknesses of the Windows App Store (100,000 apps, most of them useless) it isn’t the strongest tablet offering out there, either – especially at the price points they’re pushing it.
In short, I’d buy a Sony Vaio Pro 11 if I wanted a PC, and I’d buy the iPad if I wanted a pure tablet play. For a true hybrid, though, it will probably end up being the Asus Transformer T100 for me, which checks more of my boxes than anything I’ve yet seen from the new offerings.
I expect RT to be dead by this time next year, and Microsoft hardware – whatever remains – relegated to the enterprise and fanboi niche, where it won’t do a hell of a lot to salvage M$’s flagging dominance in the OS world.