This week MS Seattle finally confirmed release information for the Surface Pro. Of course that info related to the North American marketplace only and we are still waiting on official advice on Australian release dates. The Surface Pro is the full deal Microsoft Tablet. Running Windows 8 (not Windows RT) on an x86 Intel processor it will allow legacy Apps on the desktop as well as the new Windows Store metro apps. Of course not being on an ARM chip, battery life will be approximately half of that of the RT and prices will naturally be significantly higher. When this product finally arrives in Australia, one possibly unconsidered consequence WPDownUnder is looking forward to is at the point-of-sale with at least one of the two current retail partner: JB HiFi. How you ask? Well it all comes down to the “positioning” of the Surface RT vs. the Surface Pro, and JB Hi-Fi need to fix this when Surface Pro lands…
Surface RT running Windows RT is a great product, for the right user. Understanding its features and limitations is critical for this product. The ARM chip brings extended battery life – typically of around 8-9 hours real-life usage, and instant on/resume. The bundled Office RT adds to the value of the package and for tablet form brings capability Android or iOS can’t match – yet (Office for iOS is expected this year) and the unique connectable keyboard/cover bundles brings stylish and functional productivity enhancements versus the competition. Then we arrive at the Apps, and the biggest “buyer beware” associated with Windows RT. As Microsoft state on their Surface website: “Works exclusively with apps available in the Windows Store”. However if we go to the Staff Guide for retail partners, we see more explicit training information for salespeople on this point and other differences of Windows RT versus Windows 8:
Microsoft hit the nail on the head with their closing observation on this guide. These are all DIFFERENCES of the Windows RT system. They are not necessarily limitations or negatives. For many users, this author included, Windows RT hardware is a perfect device for their needs. ARM battery life, decent everyday performance, the ability to consume content – and the BEST create content experience of ANY tablet form factor on the market today (Office RT and keyboard – whether Surface RT cover or other OEM docking form factor). Most commonly negative web reviews of the Windows RT system highlight that product placement and information and consumer expectations have not been aligned.
Is the Surface RT a tablet? Is it an Ultrabook? Is it a convertible desktop replacement? Let’s put these questions to one side for a moment. Here’s a picture of the point-of-sale on Surface RT as it stands right now in a typical JB-HiFi store in Australia. Some stores have it on the end of the Ultrabook aisle (with MS point-of-sale material even!) – but many are exactly as pictured below:
This is an interesting decision by JB. Now I for one would never make the claim that the Surface RT was an Ultrabook replacement. It can certainly replicate some of the functionality of an Ultrabook - and admittedly Ultrabooks today now encompass a broad range of specs and performance. However it also has features (like battery life and portability form factor) superior to most x86 Ultrabooks….Logically it is not possible for the Surface RT to sit out on its own table in-between tablets and notebooks/ultrabooks – but the eventual arrival of the Surface Pro both fixes this issue and also makes a case for more in-store support from sales staff for prospective purchasers. The Surface Pro should slot into the picture above, with the x86 model sitting alongside it’s ultrabook and/or convertible form factor Windows 8 devices. The Surface RT on ARM should then move over into this picture:
In our considered opinion, the Surface RT is not a Desktop replacement or Laptop replacement. It is also not simply a tablet. We believe it is “MORE THAN A TABLET”. How much more will be based on what your mobile computing needs are and this is an assessment everyone should make for themselves, with sales staff helping to pose the question and inform the customer…something I hope is not too much to ask.
PS some extra comments on retail / Surface RT / Surface Pro for our readers to answer some of your questions based on Twitter/FB conversations:
- WPDownUnder is quite happy with our Surface RT – and feels no need to upgrade to a Surface Pro (PowerDVD mobile, a torrent client and hopefully Outlook on RT would close out all our mobile needs).
- For those asking re: Surface RT point-of-sale units in JB not having internet access vs. Apple devices. Apple pay for their own 100% maintained tables with their own internet access.
- WPDU has asked MSAU for official comment on Surface Pro AU release dates, the 64GB Surface RT standalone SKU and Limited Ed. graphic Touch Covers availability. We are waiting to hear back.
- Anecdotal sales feedback from (10-20) VIC JB/HN stores we have visited since launch is that interest is pretty good, and sales are from decent to good. We have seen many people looking at them in our visits+sighted sales.
- There has disappointingly been observed and reported numerous cases of “vandalised” store display units (locked out, deleted tiles, disabled features etc) by malicious customers.
- Here is an additional store guide for staff (the flip side of the page featured above) to help sell and position the Surface RT.
- Here is the limited edition Covers confirmed for the US.
- A WPDU shot of the Surface RT point-of-sale support in a JB HiFi store: Pic.
- Surface Pro Overview Video from MS on YouTube