Saturday, December 1, 2012

Microsoft Surface with Windows Pro release date and pricing, with pricing estimated for Australia.

Microsoft in the States has now released pricing of the Surface Windows Pro and confirmed availability for January 2013.

The 64GB (SSD – Solid State Drive) model will be priced at $899 and the 128GB model at $999. Based on the pricing of the current Surface RT devices in Australia this may correspond to prices of around $999 and $1,109, but I’d almost expect the more expensive model to be price at $1,099 to make the price appear better.

These are the prices I’d expected but I really was hoping for better.

One thing recently concerned me, is yesterday I started reading a few articles based on information released by Microsoft, and it feels like Microsoft is starting to lower people’s expectation in terms of battery life. It is expected the battery life will be half that of the Surface RT model, possibly giving 4-5 hours on a single charge.

For me the three key features which interests me with the Microsoft tablet are:

1. Compatibility with Windows
2. Extended battery life compared to my ageing netbook
3. Portability

Based on point one I have little interest in the Surface RT model. I’ve mentioned in another post that to me the Surface RT is a product I generally wouldn’t recommend to customers unless they research it well and it meets their requirements. Personally I expect many people will purchase the Surface RT tablet only to realise later all the limitations. However I expect the Surface with Windows Pro will be compatible (largely) with my existing Windows applications and data.

The battery life of the Surface with Windows Pro is now a niggling concern. I don’t expect to achieve more than 4-5 hours of use between recharging. Certainly nowhere near as good as other tablets providing 8 hours or more. The battery life has now put a real dampener on my hopes for the new Surface. That battery life barely matches new lightweight notebooks.

The third is portability. In general the Surface with Windows Pro will meet but not exceed my expectation. It has only become apparent to me just how heavy the tablet is, or perhaps I should say, it isn’t going to be as light as I’d hoped.

A few years ago (about three) I moved my work to a netbook (running Windows XP) which has served me really well. Light compared to notebooks, fast enough for my needs (but now getting a little slow), but the battery life was the biggest limitation at around two hours.  Including the netbook in my travel kit was easy. Now the promise of a lighter device with a longer battery life and better performance is appealing.

I decided to weigh my netbook today to see how the weight compared to the new Surface with Windows Pro. The netbook weighed 1190g. The new Surface with Windows Pro is 907g is an improvement, but not quite as much as I’d expected.

Had the Apple iPad Mini been released for $299 for me it would have been an impulse buy. The iPad Mini would never have achieved Windows compatibility, but in time, I’d rewrite my applications and I’d go down a new path with technology. I felt Apple this time had over priced their Mini and the lack of GPS in the entry level model put me off. The Surface RT is like getting an iPad. Both really are not compatible with my Windows applications and both are quite restricted in their design with the ultimate aim being to lock me in as a user. The Surface with Windows Pro gives me Windows compatibility and almost the same level of openness as Windows does today. Some apps just don’t work unless you have a Microsoft account.

I can live with the shorter tablet battery life. The real problem then is the price . This is not an impulse buy. For me I’d question if the 64GB has sufficient space (given Surface RT feedback shows Windows using 20GB to start with) so I’d probably be bumped to the 128GB model. I could get away without the cover/keyboard as there are lots of other options available, but if I decided on the Surface Touch Cover the price is $139.99 and the Type cover is $149.99.

With the Surface with Windows Pro price in Australia I expect the price to be close to $1,099. Add $139.99 for the Touch Cover and that means a cost expected to be around  $1,239. To me that’s a very expensive tablet and harder to justify.

Microsoft for me have pushed the price to the point where you need to very seriously consider your options. The question is “have they pushed too far?”

In the end it will probably boil down to Windows compatibility, longer battery life and portability. The premium for Windows compatibility is high. If people can avoid Windows compatibility (getting easier as mobile devices displace desktop usage) Microsoft’s tablet strategy may be in tatters. I’ll pay a premium for Windows compatibility and live with an average battery life, but I’m not sure I can quite justify the premium Microsoft is asking.

What will be really interesting is to see what other manufacturers bring to market. If other manufacturers come out with better pricing then as they say, it is game on.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.
Servicing Doncaster, Templestowe, Eltham and the surrounding area.

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