The Surface RT launched before Christmas with barely a whimper and we’re waiting to see if the Surface Pro is legitimate or if early inventories were very limited. While I’m fond of my Nexus 7, it really can’t replace my laptop. I’m going to need something a bit closer to a full PC where even the iPad and larger Android tablets fall short. In the absence of a good Linux tablet, Microsoft’s options my be useful alternatives.
Or at least that’s what I hoped. As long as you’re not expecting a full Windows experience the Windows RT is not a bad tablet, but lacking many capabilities of its x86 brother means Surface RT isn’t much more of a laptop replacement than an iPad or Android tablet. To compound the error, Windows RT also brings along along of the legacy cruft eating up valuable storage space. An expanded Windows Phone 8 rather than a pared down Windows 8 may have been a smarter move for the long term for Microsoft.
So if the Surface RT can’t replace a laptop, the Surface Pro is probably the obvious solution. right? Technically, yes. The Surface Pro is a quite capable of doing anything most laptops or tablets can, but it does that by sacrificing tablet features. The two biggest are battery life and silence. A 4 hour battery life on a 10 inch tablet is basically unforgivable in 2013. That’s simply not competitive. The low battery life is connected to the second issue: the fan. The iPad doesn’t have a fan and neither does the Galaxy Tab or the many other Android tablets. The fan is required by the laptop sized CPU in the Surface Pro and is also to blame for the battery life. It makes the Surface Pro a great laptop or desktop alternative, but a poor tablet.
What Microsoft needs is a middle ground between the RT and the Pro. A “Surface A”, where A stands for Atom. While the Intel Atom processor isn’t exactly a powerhouse compared to Intel’s stable of Core chips, it can power most Windows 8 x86 applications and importantly for tablets, it’s power friendly and the right variant can run without a noisy CPU cooler. I don’t expect the Surface line to be very successful, mostly because I don’t expect Microsoft to put out an Atom tablet soon. Other companies have and I expect them to run away with the Windows 8 tablet market while Windows RT joins Windows NT for PowerPC and Alpha.