Surface tablets get an overhaul

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As a result of weak sales, Microsoft has taken action and is updating its Surface tablets. The updates will be applied to both the Intel-powered Windows 8 and ARM-based RT editions, and will include faster processors and high-resolution screens and cameras.

Microsoft mistakenly produced more of the first edition RT tablet, than it could ultimately sell, leaving the organisation with a £560m write-down. Although, analysts have said that the Surface tablets are part of a long-term strategy and therefore may eventually pay off, despite their prediction of Microsoft’s device sales remaining behind competitors’ products.

In a study, conducted by Gartner, they found that Windows-based tablets only accounted for 7% of the international shipments made during the second quarter of the year (April to June). Whereas, Apple’s iPads accounted for 45% and Android-based tablets had a 48% share.

Roberta Cozza, Research Director for Gartner, commented,

“Our outlook for the RT tablets is very low because consumers are still confused about what they are getting with the platform and we aren’t seeing a big uptake in the business market […] The pro range may do a bit better. The release of a new docking station and other accessories will help […] but they’re still quite pricey so it’s unlikely to be a huge leap forward.”

As part of the upgrade, new all Surface tablets will now feature HD displays capable of showing videos in full 1080p. The RT versions are gaining a 5 megapixel rear camera and a 3.5 megapixel front camera, therefore giving the ability to record in 1080p, although the pro model will remain with the 720p camera. The Intel-based Surface will also include Intel’s 4th generation Core i5 processor, of which is said, by Microsoft, to increase the batter life by 60%. The RT version will also be first tablet to run Nvidia’s ARM-based Tegra 4 processor and have a USB 3 port.

Extra memory will be available as an option, with up to 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, allowing users to run more programs, concurrently, than before. The Touch Cover keyboard is furthermore being updated to a thinner and lighter version with backlit keys.

Prices for the new RT Surface will be between £359 and £439, the cheaper pro editions will be priced between £719 and £1,439, the keyboard has been promised to be released at £165.

Despite the lack in sales and objections of the inability to run legacy software, it is clear that Microsoft have made the decision to remain with the ARM-based platform, meaning that programs such as iTunes and the full version of Photoshop remain unavailable, although the ARM-based chips do allow for longer battery life and reduced costs.

Chris Green, Principle Technology Analyst for the Davies Murphy Group, said that

“It’s a long-term plan. It’s about establishing a platform that could take four or five years to succeed in a similar way to the fact that early versions of Android didn’t set the world on fire, but after its third or fourth iteration it became dominant and liked […] However, running what are effectively three separate Windows platforms is fairly illogical and expensive, so I believe Microsoft will ultimately merge Windows RT with Windows Phone.”

Source: BBC News

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