Surface Pro Approaches

Microsoft’s Surface Pro is expected by the end of January, and Mary Branscombe has just posted her first impressions from CES 2013. This is not a full review and Branscombe is a noted Microsoft fangirl, so unsurprisingly she loves every single thing about the device. Still, there’s some interesting tidbits to chew on until we get proper reviews.

  • Prices as announced: $899 for 64GB, $999 for 128GB, both with 4GB of RAM but without either keyboard cover. Same appearance and materials as the Surface RT but heavier, at 2 instead of 1.5 pounds.

  • Intel Core i5 with Intel HD Graphics 4000 for full desktop compatibility. No word on whether this is Intel’s latest power-saving CPU generation, so probably not. Cooling by an effective ventilation strip around the edges cools, without noise or hot spots.

  • 10.6″ screen with 1920×1080 resolution and ten-point multitouch. Video output uses Mini DisplayPort according to specifications; Branscombe writes VGA but that must be a mistake (edit: now corrected). USB 3.0 for general connectivity.

  • New non-capacitive pen for handwriting and pointing with mouse precision. The pen features a button for right mouse clicks and an eraser for drawing applications, and attaches to the Surface Pro with a magnetic clip when not used.

  • 2013-01-10: More CES 2013 previews coming in, another short one by Simon Bisson and a longer one by Tom Warren. Reassuringly, both are as positive as Branscombe’s.

So far this sounds encouraging. I hope we’ll see more extensive reviews soon, possibly including mine since I still intend to get a Surface Pro. Comparable OEM systems have about the same price tag, but with less elegant keyboard mechanisms and the threat of crapware infestations. Intel’s current CPUs are still not ideal for tablets, but Intel has promised to fix this by late 2013. Since that’s probably also when the first big Windows 8 updates and decent Windows Store apps will be available, you might want to hold out until then.

Windows 8 Holiday Sales

Holding out is what most people seem to be doing. Microsoft just trumpeted 60 million Windows 8 licenses sold – but this includes OEM sell-in, and also upgrades just before the deadline for cheap Pro upgrades runs out. Actual consumer adoption is slow. Just before Christmas, Nick Wingfield reported disappointing sales for Windows devices, down 13% from last year’s holiday season. Microsoft correctly predicted the decline of traditional PCs but has so far been unable to compete in the tablet space. As for the company’s own Surface RT, just look at A.X. Ian’s whimsical first tweet infographic

Fujitsu explicitly blamed its own weak PC sales on Windows 8. That might be an excuse, but an Internet usage snapshot showed Windows 8 uptake actually falling below Vista’s, within 1.5 months after launch. Paul Thurott points out that the popular Windows 7 came on dirt-cheap netbooks while Windows 8 touchscreen portables are quite expensive. That’s a good point, and the Surface RT probably lost a significant number of sales to its high price. Still, I don’t think Windows 7 was ever called a Christmas gift for someone you hate. There’s more wrong here than just pricing.

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