Today Microsoft announced that they were going to make their own Windows 8 devices as well. And it's going to be called the Microsoft Surface.
Personally, ever since Windows 8's features were announced, and seeing the OEM's really gung ho about making Windows Tablets again in Computex 2012, I was already expecting to be able to buy an Ultrabook spec'ed Windows Tablet in the future. What I didn't expect was that it might turn out to be a Microsoft branded Windows Tablet.
Specs wise it brings nothing new to the table for me, as I've been using small and lite Tablet PCs for a while now so seeing the latest greatest notebooks at petit sizes don't really excite me anymore. I'm more surprised that Microsoft themselves are doing it. Some people have likened this to Google giving an OEM early access to their Android builds and coming out with a Google Nexus phone as a lead phone for an Android version. But that's Google telling an OEM "Here are the plans to the next great thing, we're giving you an advantage to build the next great phone first but you must follow the plans to the letter." That would be akin to Microsoft ordering Samsung to make the Windows 8 Developer Preview Slate PC.
But this is not the case here, this is Microsoft partnering with an ODM and making their own hardware. This is basically Microsoft telling the OEMs "We've always been advising you guys on the great ways you can make a Windows Tablet, now we're showing you how to make a great Windows Tablet!" And that's what excites and worries me at the same time. It's exciting because the OEMs HAVE been dropping the ball when it comes to making great Windows Tablets, everyone has just basically been trying to beat the ARM tablets by trying to make a Intel slate and install Windows on it and you end up with lemons like the Fujitsu Q550 and Dell Slate ST. Of course there are also the great ones like the Asus eeeSlate and aside from the Q550 misstep (which I guess can be attributed to Intel's fault) Fujitsu is pretty much the ONLY OEM that's been constantly pushing out Windows Tablets.
What is worrying to me is that Microsoft can't give this Surface endeavor the 110% of the effort they want to. They can't really market and priced the Surface and give it a better advantage compared to the other devices the OEMs are going to come out with, that'd just be inviting the usual anti competition problems. Of course MS could also encourage OEMs to build the same type of device with similar capabilities by offering them the same discount for licenses.
As for the big question of will I be getting one myself? Well, first of all I'm definitely going for an x86 Windows Tablet PC, there's no doubt about that part. The only remaining question which I have for the Surface tablet is the pen. (pic from Engadget)
Being a seasoned Windows Tablet user, all he funky terms like high DPI ink, palm block ability, etc. etc. Basically translates to pressure sensitive digitizer pen, and since Microsoft seem to be only putting the best stuff into the Surface, I'm gonna bet that we're looking at Wacom technology here.
The problem here is that the pen is mentioned as an OPTIONAL input device. That would mean that there might the Surface itself does not have a storage silo for the pen. I HATE the idea of a digitizer capable device not having a slot that can protect and store it's own pen properly. So this is one of the issues that's holding me back on going all "Microsoft, take my money nooooowwww!" on it.
Update : They expect people to latch the pen to the charge port via a magnetic connector. That is NOT a proper and even effective way to store something you don't want to lose!
The other issue is that, this is a PC we're talking about. And I'm pretty sure right now our local Microsoft subsidiary isn't setup to handle support issues for a PC, and like some have already pointed out that Microsoft doesn't have the proper distribution power to perform a global launch. So it's very likely that there's little chance the Microsoft Surface is going to show up on Malaysian soil unless some miracle happens.
So... don't disappoint me Fujitsu... show me what that New Detachable Performance Slate is! And it better have a stylus silo!