Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet has a release date: the 9th of February. It promises a tour de force of fully-fledged Windows 8 elegance and speed. So what’s out there now that might exert some market pressure? Are there any other innovative devices primed for the same market? And how will their inevitable competition pan out? We investigate.
The difference between the Surface Pro and the original Surface is all the difference in the world.The more powerful, more feature-rich Pro will run the most comprehensive version of Windows 8 Operating System (OS) to date. The original Surface, which debuted last October, runs a stripped-down, lightweight Windows 8 OS called Windows RT. There are a number of crucial elements that make each version distinct.
The Surface was initially conceived as a competitor to both the iPad – which runs apps within Apple’s manicured ecosystem – and the Google Nexus – that also has its own managed, but slightly less exacting ecosystem. Microsoft needed to come up with a ‘walled content garden’ of their own: so, they created Windows RT.
Windows RT only allows the installation of apps from Microsoft’s App Store. You’re also stuck with the touch-optimized Metro interface unless you’re using one of a handful of specific programs.And what the operating system lacks in features, it lacks in hardware specs, too. This means the
Surface and any other Windows RT device, like the Lenovo Yoga 11 – runs according to quite a different ball game than ultrabooks and their fully-featured OSs.
The Surface Pro’s competitors, then, are in a different class to the trimmed-down iOS, Android and BlackBerry competition. For arguably the first time ever the Pro raises the genuine question: ‘can tablets compete on an equal footing with laptops that run the same OS?’ If so, the Surface Pro might compete with the mid-range ultrabook market – like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 – and the high-end laptop market – like Dell’s XPS line. Since the Surface Pro’s target demographic is business users, it could also be compared to the ThinkPad, another Lenovo laptop that is strongly established in that sector.
Since reviews for the Surface Pro are thin on the ground – and likely will remain so until early February – it’s difficult to pinpoint specific ultrabook and laptop models that will directly compete.It’s plain to see, however, that other tablets are unlikely to meet the same standard. Microsoft Windows 8 handles multitasking better than Android 4.2 or iOS 6. It’s more physically keyboard-user-friendly, too and guarantees compatibility with existing Microsoft Office editions.
There are no tablets with acceptable User Experiences (UXs) that can currently offer all of these things: but there are laptops that can. With the launch of the Pro, we’ll finally be able to see if ‘Post-PC’ predictions are correct: and begin to define a new direction for future consumer electronics hardware.