Microsoft's super-secret event delivered a gadget that lived up to tech blogger hype -- almost. People who've touched the tablet, which the company has named Surface, are impressed. But, no matter how lovely the Surface's cover, feel, and insides may be, Microsoft forgot some important details when it unveiled the thing: Like pricing and availability, for example. This thing could cost anywhere from $1 dollar to $1 billion, and without the exact price, it's hard to put it in context of the already saturated tablet market. And that's not all the company failed to mention.
Pricing and Availability
The Next Web's Brad McCarty finds the "competitive" pricing way too vague:
We also don't know the price. We have a range, but not even a solid one. The RT model will be priced in line with other ARM-based tablets, and the Pro version will hit the range of "Intel-based Ultrabooks". In case you've not been following along, Ultrabooks have a price range from somewhere around $500 (£320) to upwards of $1,200 (£766), depending on the model. You simply can't be that vague with a device that holds such an iconic potential.
Daring Fireball's John Gruber can kind of sort of understand the price thing, but not the lack of availability:
I can sort of understand announcing without a ship date. But I can't understand announcing without prices. Why not start taking preorders?— John Gruber (@gruber) June 19, 2012
Gizmodo's Brian Barrett, however, tries to understand the motivation behind the move:
The x86 Surface doesn't really have a clear correlation, other than maybe the MacBook Air and other Core i5 ultrabooks, which puts it anywhere from $1000 on up.
So why not just say that? Because Surface isn't coming out for months and months. Announcing a price now would leave Apple and the rest of the tablet hardware makers plenty of time to undercut.
Even with all the greatness built into that tablet, it still doesn't exist for us, explains Ars Technica's Peter Bright:
The Surface tablets are smart, good-looking, carefully considered, well-built, slick pieces of kit and there's nothing even close on the market today. Of course, they're not on the market today either...
Without a specific price, Microsoft has left us to guess the price is in the $1,000 range, leading The New York Times's David Pogue to wonder if it's worth it:
If you’re going to spend around $1,000 for a tablet with a detachable keyboard, why not just get an ultrabook, which is a more complete PC that weighs about the same?
This strategy could hurt Microsoft, explains GDGT's Peter Rojas:
Announcing these Surface tablets in June and then not releasing them until October or November would be bad. So would not pricing them aggressively against the iPad, which is ultimately the real competition for these things, not other Windows 8 tablets (or ultrabooks). I'm sure there was some strategic decision to announce ahead of Google I/O, but I sincerely hope that we see these on sale sooner rather than later.
Gruber, again, can't believe this basic omission:
No battery life specs for either the ARM or Intel versions? Starting to think this is a hoax.
TechCrunch's Matt Burns puts it among his top concerns about the crowd-pleasing tablet:
The tech crowd loves the high-end feel and the responsive system. There are still a lot of unknowns at this point. Never mind the Surface’s price: ... How hot does it get after 5 hours? With that, how long does the battery last?
The omissions shows how Microsoft kind of botched this release, adds McCarty:
I want Microsoft to succeed with the Surface. I think it’s a product with a huge amount of potential. But I also think that, if you’re going to do something you have to do it right. Announcing a product, giving no ship date, having a confusing name and then not telling us what it will cost? That’s nowhere near doing it right. And that’s not to mention, we still don’t have battery life or full specs for the tablets, only a small list of the unimportant stuff. It’s a big gap in an increasingly-important story.
Microsoft didn't mention neither 4G or 3G capabilities. What's up with that, asks Barrett:
Will either the RT or Intel version of Microsoft Surface come in a 4G edition? Wi-Fi is fine for most, but if you're pushing the business angle—which Microsoft very vocally was—online anywhere becomes incredibly important.
Both Pogue and Burns mentions this omissions as well.
Other than those minor complaints, the people love it, though.
The Verge's Joshua Topolsky was impressed:
I may be a lone voice, but I do not think the Surface can just be written off.
As was TechCrunch's Colleen Taylor:
In all it is a very nice, well-thought out, impressive effort from the folks up in Redmond
It more than met expectations adds PCWorld's Melissa Perenson:
The big question is, does it stand up to the hype? The answer, succinctly, is yes.
After the event, attendees got a brief audience with the Surface (the second Microsoft product to get that name; prior to today, "Surface" referred to Microsoft's table-top touchscreen computer experience). I saw it up-close, and in limited action, and was very impressed with what I saw.
For starters, Microsoft truly has paid close attention to the details. This tablet is one of the few with a full-sized USB port - and thank goodness for that. The Windows RT version of Surface has USB 2.0, with USB 3.0 on the Windows 8 Professional version.