Last month, Microsoft announced not one but two versions of its new Surface tablet:

  1.  An ARM-based, Windows RT-reliant version to be released in October of this year
  2. An Intel Core i5-based, full Windows 8 version to be released in January of 2013
So, what’s the difference between these two? Well, for starters, they are using two different processors and thus two different operating systems. Windows RT is to Windows as iOS is to OS X on the Mac side of things. The ARM-based RT tablet is aimed strictly at the consumer market as Microsoft tries to go mano-a-mano  against Apple’s iPad and runs an instance of Windows that is restricted to Metro only. The downside to this RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) tablet is that there are precious few apps available for this version. Here we have a classic Catch-22; Developers won’t write apps for this platform unless it’s going to sell & sell very well, indeed. The device won’t sell unless it has a significant number of apps available to run on Windows RT. And so it goes. The tablet will probably sell to Microsoft loyalists who would not be caught dead with an iPad in their hands. Anything after that is anybody’s guess.
The Surface Pro version uses an Intel i5 processor that will not be as miserly with battery usage as the ARM-based machine BUT  – and it’s a big one – it will be running an instance of Windows 8 Professional and will have access to the classic Windows Desktop that most Windows users know and love. The App Store will be no more with this machine as it will run pretty much anything that Windows 7 can run. Caveat emptor – These apps are not optimised for a touch environment and won’t be as “pretty” as they could be. Nonetheless, having the Microsoft Office suite on your tablet will be a big plus in my book. Outlook addicts, rejoice!!

It appears that the Surface Pro may be a real game-changer vis a vis’ the Apple iPad. The Pro version will answer a lot of questions and concerns that CIOs have about Apple in the enterprise environment. This device has generated a lot of buzz in the corporate world and CIOs are (usually) more likely to give serious thought about the platform and its compatibility with the existing infrastructure than the consumer who decides to buy an iPad simply because it’s an Apple product.

There are Pros & Cons to any new device in a fluid market like this. The most compelling Con is that there is no Wireless option available (Yet). While it would be really great to use the Surface Pro for Internet connectivity anywhere, the user will be restricted to Wi-Fi hot spots. A second Con is that storage options are limited to 64 GB for the Windows RT version and 128 GB for the Surface Pro. Will this be enough space to hold all the software that will allow a user to be both productive and mobile?

The success of the Windows RT Surface tablet may well depend on the success of the Metro interface. Samsung is rumoured to have a 7-inch tablet in the works that will run Windows RT and other manufacturers appear ready to follow suit. Fujitsu is already offering tablets optimised for Windows 8. To judge the potential impact and success of  the Surface tablets  for yourself, take a look at the suggested articles below.

For Further Reading:

Microsoft Surface: this time it’s business – Tech Republic

All about Windows RT: the OS behind a Microsoft Tablet – Computer World

Surface a real game-changer – Tech Republic

Five Pros and Cons of the Microsoft Surface Tablet – IT Solution Journal

 

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