Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Microsoft Surface RT running Windows 8 is announced for Oct 26, 2012; starting at US$ 499 for a 32 GB model -- the cover-keypad is US$ 100 extra (also noting on a case of a 5" Android tablet-phone)

The MS Surface, showing the cover-keypad
that will cost an additional US$ 100 for the baseline model
As a part of tracking education related and tech-development issues, I note that according to reports, the Microsoft Surface RT will be coming out Oct 26, starting at US$ 499 for the baseline RT version with a "double the iPad" 32 GBytes of internal memory. 

This sets a price point war with the iPad.

I like the already linked report in the Durango Herald, so let me clip:
Microsoft’s first tablet computer, the Surface, will start at $499 when it goes on sale Oct. 26.

The price matches that of Apple’s iPad, the most popular tablet computer, but the base model of the Surface has twice as much storage memory: 32 gigabytes. The screen is also slightly larger.

The signature hardware feature of the tablet, a cover that doubles as a keyboard, will cost another $100, Microsoft said Tuesday. A step-up model for $699 has twice the memory, 64 GB, and includes a cover.

The launch of the Surface is an unusual move for Microsoft, which usually sells software to computer makers instead of making computers itself. It coincides with the launch of Windows 8, a version of the operating system that’s designed to work better on touch-screen computers and tablets.

Microsoft will be selling the tablet in its own stores in the U.S. and Canada and online in those countries, plus Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and the U.K.
The Touch Cover has a working, printed keyboard on its inside surface, but the “keys” don’t move when pushed. Microsoft will sell a separate Type Cover with keys that move for $130.
Maybe the more significant aspect of this, is the co-incident launch of Windows 8 as the unit's operating system; which will apparently be able to run legacy Windows software. (A 10" screen Tablet with a keyboard is effectively a Netbook PC, so the running of legacy software is a significant point.)

Fred Lardinois of Tech Crunch has some significant points to say on Win 8 in an Oct 14th article:

Those who think Microsoft went off the deep end with Windows 8 tend to focus on how much of a hybrid between a desktop and tablet/touch operating system it is. They ask how users will ever live without the traditional Start menu? How will they figure out how to switch between Metro apps? How will they ever find their way back to the familiar desktop once they open the new Start menu? How could Microsoft ever release an operating system that places such a massive cognitive burden on so many users?

Sure, Windows 8 introduces new concepts, including the Metro-style Start menu. But for the most part, you can happily use Windows 8 just like you do Windows 7 and just think of it like a service pack.

The old, familiar desktop is always there and waiting for you. Indeed, you can completely ignore the Metro/Windows 8-style user interface 99 percent of the time. You may have to face it when you launch Windows 8, but you can just launch any desktop app from there with one click and you’re out of the Metro UI and back on the desktop.
In short, once one clicks on startup, one is able to use the more familiar traditional Windows interface if one does not like the new Metro touch-screen, fingertip-oriented interface, for technical or aesthetic reasons. (And yes, I find the opening screen quite garish.)

The key lesson for Microsoft is, aesthetics now counts bigtime and some "cool" graphics will make a difference.

But, we also see that Microsoft is making a bang for bucks argument and is investing in an ARM-based system.

The tablet market has entered a new phase of maturation, with the migration of Windows to the Tablet format. 

Tablets are the new standard for personalised computing, and the integration of a tablet-friendly keyboard is a big issue, once we move beyond primarily consumption of digital info and services to productivity. Hence of course, my own longstanding emphasis on the 7" tablet cradled in a folio with a keyboard as a sweet spot format:

A 7" tablet, cradled in a portfolio with a keyboard
 (And BTW, the other day, I saw what looked like an unusually large cell phone in a friend's hands. Turned out it is a 5" diagonal, Tablet and phone with Android and with front and back cams -- Skype integrated! --  that works with a hang on the ear, bluetooth earphone/mike combo; US$ 300. For the first time, I am tempted by a smartphone, though I would of course prefer a lower price-point. Or, should I be looking to a 7" tab that takes a SIM card in addition to SD card and has a bluetooth interface that will take the earpiece? If we can get something like that for the range of about US$ 150 or so, that could be an across-the board killer personal digital device.)

Tablets are the new normal, folks.  END