The Surface RT with its Touch Cover accessory
|Release date||October 26, 2012|
|Operating system||Windows RT|
|Power||113.4 kJ (31.5 W·h) battery, 24W power supply|
|System-on-chip used||Nvidia Tegra 3 (T30)|
|CPU||1300 MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9|
|Storage capacity||32 GB (16 GB available) or 64 GB (46 GB available) and microSDXC slot|
|Memory||2 GB 32-bit single-channel 750 MHz DDR3L-1500 (6 GB/sec)|
|Display||10.6 inches (27 cm) 1366 x 768 px (148 ppi) ClearType HD screen with 16:9 aspect ratio|
|Input||5-point multi-touch screen, ambient light sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, compass, dual microphones|
|Camera||Front: 1.2 MP, 720p HD
Rear: 1.2 MP AF, 720p HD
|Connectivity||2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, HD video out port|
|Online services||Windows Store, Xbox Music, SkyDrive, Xbox Games, Xbox Video|
|Dimensions||10.81 inches (27.5 cm) (w)
6.77 inches (17.2 cm) (h)
0.37 inches (9.4 mm) (d)
|Weight||1.5 pounds (680 g)|
Surface Pro with stylus (detached from keyboard cover)
|Release date||February 9, 2013
May 2013 (UK)
|Operating system||Windows 8 Pro
Unofficial support for Android-IA and Ubuntu
|Power||151.2 kJ (42 W·h) battery|
|CPU||Dual-core 1.7 GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.6 GHz) Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Storage capacity||64 GB (23 GB available) or 128 GB (83 GB available) or 256 GB and microSDXC slot|
|Memory||4 GB dual-channel DDR3-1600 (25.6 GB/sec)|
|Display||10.6 inches (27 cm) 1920 x 1080 px (208 ppi) ClearType HD screen with 16:9 aspect ratio|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Input||10-point multi-touch screen, pen input, ambient light sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, compass, dual microphones|
|Camera||Front: 1.2 MP, 720p HD
Rear: 1.2 MP AF, 720p HD
|Connectivity||2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort|
|Online services||Windows Store, Xbox Music, SkyDrive, Xbox Games, Xbox Video|
|Dimensions||10.81 inches (27.5 cm) (w)
6.81 inches (17.3 cm) (h)
0.53 inches (13 mm) (d)
|Weight||2 pounds (910 g)|
The Surface comes in two versions: one with Windows RT and another with Windows 8 Pro. The Windows RT model uses an ARM CPU, while the Windows 8 Pro model uses an Intel CPU. Both models are able to install new applications via the Windows Store, however only the Windows 8 Pro model allows the installation of traditional third-party desktop programs.
The Microsoft Surface line uses a molded magnesium casing known as "VaporMg" (pronounced "VaporMag") that houses Surface's components paired with a PVD finish. A built-in kickstand allows the Surface to be propped up for viewing without any additional hardware.
Both devices include several hardware buttons and inputs. A hardware button on the side of the device controls wake/sleep state and power of the Surface, and a rocker controls the volume. A touch sensitive Windows key is centered directly below the screen. The bottom of both Surface devices includes a magnetic data connector through which the keyboard covers connect to and communicate with the device. For ports, the Surface RT features a full-size USB 2.0 port, an HD video out port, and a microSDXC card slot; the Surface Pro includes a full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort port, and microSDXC card slot. Both models have two 720p HD front- and rear-facing cameras, and a 0.77 millimetres (0.030 in)-thick kickstand which allows the device to be stood up at an angle for hands-free viewing.
Surface and Surface Pro have screens of 10.6 inches (27 cm) with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Both tablets use Microsoft's ClearType HD display technology and support an ultra-wide viewing angle and auto-adjusting screen intensity. In announcement talk, Michael Angiulo said that when Surface Pro is held at 17 inches (43 cm), the eyes will not be able to distinguish between individual pixels. Both screens feature Gorilla Glass, scratch and crack-resistant glass.
The display functions as a multi-touch input device. While the Surface RT includes 5-point capacitive touch, the Surface Pro includes 10-points of touch detection. In addition, the Surface Pro includes a digital pen and Wacom's digitizing technology. This allows the pen to be contacted with up to 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. To achieve highly precise pen inputs, the display produces a weak electromagnetic (EM) field, which induces a current in the otherwise passive pen, which in turn impacts the EM field. This allows the system to detect the position and angle of the pen starting at a distance of 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the display. During pen use, the touch system rejects inputs from the user's palm. While not in use, the pen can be stored on the magnetic connector that is also used for device charging. As a result, the pen must be detached while the device is charging. In addition to the display inputs, both Surface devices include an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass.
Microsoft offers two keyboard covers for Surface—the Touch Cover and Type Cover—both of which connect to the Surface via a magnetic strip. Both serve as protective covers when folded against the device, and function as keyboards when opened. The Touch Cover is 3.25 millimetres (0.128 in) thick and has a pressure-sensitive keyboard. The Type Cover is thicker at 6 millimetres (0.24 in) and includes a tactile keyboard with physical keys. The keyboards have a gyroscope and accelerometer sensor to determine, based on position, whether or not to accept input. Both also include a multitouch touchpad.
The Surface RT launched alongside the general availability release of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012. The Surface Pro became available on February 9, 2013. The Surface was initially available only in Microsoft Stores and online, it was later expanded into other vendors, such as Best Buy and Staples.
At the June 2012 unveiling event, Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, stated that pricing for the Surface RT "will be comparable to other ARM devices" and pricing for the Surface Pro "will be comparable to current ultrabooks." In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer responded to the question about Surface pricing stating that the "sweet spot" for the bulk of the PC market was $300 to $800, but did not detail any more specifics. On October 16, pricing was revealed for the Surface RT, and pre-orders opened to ship, "for delivery by 10/26".
Microsoft outsourced the pre-order process to several different partners, leading to customer confusion about the status of their deliveries. Microsoft has responded to the delays by offering vouchers to pre-order customers who complain about the late deliveries. Microsoft will launch Surface in India in early January and its prices will be revealed at the time of launch only.
In November 2012, Steve Ballmer described the distribution approach to Surface as "modest". On November 29, 2012, Microsoft revealed the pricing for the two versions of the Surface with Windows 8 Pro (64GB and 128GB). The tablet would go on sale at February 9, 2013, in the United States and Canada. Earlier reports were saying sometime in January. A launch event was set to be held on February 8, 2013, but was cancelled at the last minute due to the February 2013 nor'easter. The 128GB version of the tablet sold out on the same day as its release. There was much less demand for the 64GB version, because of the much smaller available storage capacity, but supplies of the lower cost unit were almost as tight. The 128GB version was back and available for order again on February 16th 2013. However, shipments would be delayed until the following March 1st. As of March 3rd, shipments would be delayed until March 12th, according to the Microsoft Online Store. As of March 7th the 128GB Tablet became available again and resumed shipping.
Reviews the Surface RT by critics have ranged broadly. The hardware received mostly positive reviews, while the software and overall experience were mixed. Wired reviewer Mathew Honan stated that while "This is one of the most exciting pieces of hardware I’ve ever used. It is extremely well-designed; meticulous even," the tablets are "likely to confuse many of Microsoft’s longtime customers". TechCrunch, Matt Buchanan at Buzzfeed, and Gizmodo recommended against purchasing the tablet. Gizmodo mentioned issues such as the high price tag and described it as similar but inferior to the iPad, but also praised the hardware saying, "You'll appreciate it every time you pick it up and turn it on. It's a simple, joyful experience." David Pogue at The New York Times praised the hardware but criticized the software. The Verge described the technology as fulfilling the role of a laptop or tablet "half as well as other devices on the market," adding "the whole thing is honestly perplexing." Warner Crocker from Gotta Be Mobile described it as "frustratingly confusing." Farhad Manjoo of Slate noted that the "shortcomings are puzzling" given how much time Microsoft spent developing the device. Neil McAllister has noted the lack of a compelling case to switch from the iPad to a Windows RT device at the same price point, because Apple already has a strong network effect from their app developers and few Windows developers have ported their offerings over to the ARM processor.
In March 2013, Bloomberg reported from inside sources that Surface sales were behind expectations. A total of 1.5 million Surface devices had been sold since launch, with the Surface RT model only accounting for 400,000 of these sales. Microsoft had originally projected sales of 2 million Surface units during the final quarter of 2012. The poor sales had been credited to the continuing market dominance of Microsoft's competitors in the tablet market (including Apple and Google), along with the mixed reception of and limited amount of software designed for specifically for Windows 8 and RT.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), whose products have traditionally run Microsoft operating systems, have had positive responses to the release of the Surface. HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Dell applauded Microsoft's decision to create its own Tablet PC and said that relationships with Microsoft have not changed. John Solomon, senior vice president of HP, said that "Microsoft was basically making a leadership statement and showing what's possible in the tablet space". Acer founder Stan Shih said that he believed Microsoft only introduced its own hardware in order to establish the market and would then withdraw in favor of its OEMs.
However, others believe that OEMs were left sidelined by the perception that Microsoft's new tablet will replace their products. Acer chairman JT Wang advised Microsoft to "please think twice". Microsoft has acknowledged that Surface may "affect their commitment" of partners to the Windows platform.
Break with tradition
When the Surface was first announced, the press commented that the device represented a significant departure for Microsoft. The Verge noted, "[The Surface represents] a big shift, and it's an important one (...) Microsoft is ready to make a break with its history — a history of hardware partnerships which relied on companies like Dell, HP, or Acer to actually bring its products to market.". CNET wrote, "It's the end of an era. Or maybe the start of a new one. Microsoft (...) is trying out a new business model with next Windows release."
Users on Microsoft's support forum reported that some Touch Covers were splitting at the seam where it connects to the tablet, exposing its wiring. A Microsoft spokesperson stated that the company was aware of the issue, and would offer free replacements for those who have been affected by the defect. Other users reported issues with audio randomly stuttering or muting on the Surface RT while in use. Wi-Fi connectivity issues were also reported. Firmware updates that attempted to fix the problem were released, but some users still reported problems. Microsoft has acknowledged a bug in the Windows key, that does not always work, but has promised a fix.
With the Surface Pro, Microsoft acknowledged issues encountered by some users with its stylus pen, such as the pen randomly not working correctly, and with older applications that do not have complete pen support due to the different APIs used by the Surface Pro's stylus drivers. In the latter case, Microsoft has indicated that it is working with software vendors to ensure better compatibility. Issues had also been experienced with slow Wi-Fi connectivity, and the device not properly returning from standby.
On November 14, 2012, Microsoft was sued for false advertising and unfair business practices due to the fact that about half of the total storage space on his 32 GB Surface RT tablet was used by the operating system, applications, and recovery data. Microsoft responded that the suit was without merit, because it had advertised the discrepancy on its website.
According to Microsoft, the 64 GB Surface Pro tablet would only have 29 GB of storage space and that the 128 GB Surface will only have 89 GB which has been the source of criticism in the technology news media. ZDNet editor Ed Bott has pointed out that the storage can be significantly improved by moving the recovery partition to a USB flash drive and that the MacBook Air suffers from the same problems, accusing the critics of holding a double standard.
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