Microsoft has its big plans sorted for Windows and it all seems to be coming together. It’s exciting, and the Surface tablet running Windows RT is looking good. It’s compact, light, has a ton of features, looks great, is practical and could compete with the iPad, unlike some of the Android tablets in the past. It has scope; it might not succeed at beating the iPad, but it looks like it might threaten Android tablets. There’s definitely a market for those who haven’t gone ahead and bought a tablet just yet.

As for the other tablet – the Surface with Windows 8 Pro running an Intel processor – I’m not really sure how things are going to pan out. To me, it looks like it’s a thin notebook with a touchscreen running Windows 8.

It's not likely to be all smooth sailing

It's not likely to be smooth-sailing all the way

This kind of product isn’t new for Microsoft or any other PC/notebook manufacturer. It’s something that has been attempted in the past, has failed, and looks like it’s going to happen again with the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. Laptops masquerading as tablets have been around a while, since 2005 to be precise. These were laptops that had touchscreens on their backs that could be used as tablets with a stylus or fingers. Based on Windows XP and Windows Vista, brands such as HP, Lenovo and Toshiba tried their luck with these hybrids and failed. Some of these were the Lenovo ThinkPad X41, HP Compaq TC4400 and HP's Pavilion tx2000. They failed because they were too expensive and the stylus-on-screen design didn’t work. The quality of the touchscreens at the time was horrible and the application environment wasn’t present either. These hybrid notebooks were only seen as a gimmick; there was no real need for them at the time. The result was only a handful of brands offering a few such products, all of which subsequently faded away.

It’s 2012 and I think Surface with Windows 8 Pro might follow the same path. It is, after all, a laptop running on an Intel processor. This means that the tablet, as compared to any other ARM-based tablet (including the standard Surface tablet), is likely to be hot, it’s going to drain battery quicker and interacting with tiny text and icons on the traditional Windows desktop is likely to be as painful. Try using your finger to operate a 1366 x 768 resolution 10-inch tablet with standard-sized desktop icons. Sure, it’s alright if you’re going to be using it every now and then. As an everyday work machine though, it’s no different than using a netbook. In fact, if you really wanted to use a 10-inch display with a keyboard, you might as well just buy a Rs. 13,000 netbook and get it over with. You can spend the rest of your budget on a Surface tablet with Windows RT tablet or an iPad.

If you’re going to be using the Metro interface most of the time, then why bother buying a Surface tablet with Windows 8 Pro at all? If you’re going to work on productivity applications, then you might as well buy an Ultrabook. Most notebooks have larger screens, have more power and storage space and they’re more usable on the go with the physical keyboard. The Surface tablets with the docking stand might be neat on a desk, but imagine trying to sit in a shaky, moving bus or car with the tablet docked to the keyboard and working on the Windows 8 desktop. An Ultrabook, with its shape, size and design, is better suited for this kind of environment.

Not the best design if you're going to be travelling

Not the best design if you're going to be travelling

It’s not like the Surface with Windows 8 Pro is a sleek, light-weight power-monster either. It’s close to a kilogram in weight – which is a lot for a tablet. Remember how people complained about the iPad’s weight when it had just arrived? This thing is going to weigh more than that.

Let’s talk about performance now. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet is likely to run an ultra-low power class of Ivy Bridge processor – which is a bit slower than the regular performance line of mobile processors, so don’t expect blazing fast performance in high-quality image editing suites and 3D modeling software. The pricey Surface for Windows 8 Pro is not going to be an Ultrabook replacement. It’s going to be much slower. Intel hasn’t been able to nail the battery performance either. The ARM Windows RT version of the Surface tablet might be fine, but the Ivy Bridge platform is only a bit more efficient than the Sandy Bridge one, so don’t expect a miraculous battery life of eight or nine hours.

Microsoft isn’t abandoning x86 anytime soon, but based on all the points I’ve just spoken about, I feel that the Surface tablet for Windows 8 Pro is going to have a hard time convincing people to buy it.

Publish date: June 27, 2012 12:57 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 10:37 pm

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