A Skeptical View of Microsoft Tablets
The recent Surface announcement has definitely generated much hype in the tech community. The most notable innovation, in my opinion, is the 3 mm thick smartcover-like case with a built in multitouch keyboard. However, all does not seem to be set for instant success.
First, the ARM tablet, while comparable to the new iPad in weight, is not as thin or light as the iPad 2 and various Android-based competitors. In addition, it does have a not high-resolution display (that's for the Pro model). In order to compete against the iPad and premium Android competitors, such as Acer Iconia Tab A700, which is $450 for a 32 GB model with a 1920*1200 screen, and the future Asus Transformer Pad 700, cutting edge hardware is needed. There is always a chance that Microsoft will use the ARM tablet to compete with the mid-range Android tablets, though.
The Intel tablet is "less than 2 pounds," will have significantly less battery life, is significantly thicker, and has vents and therefore, likely a fan for cooling. This does not show a giant leap from previously available Windows tablets, save for the fact that this one is running windows 8. One may question whether this has been thought out fully, because the Intel "Surface" neither has a notable form for a tablet, nor a notable hardware spec for an ultrabook. This conforms to the spirit of the converged devices that we have seen so far.But who wants a tablet slightly less than 2 pounds, or a notebook with a 10.6" screen? With the physical (clicky) keyboard case, the weight will be similar to that of ultrabooks while providing a netbook-like 10.6" experience in desktop mode.
On the subject of software, Windows RT only supports Metro apps, which puts the number of applications total that can be run, not just tablet optimized ones, at a very low number. This will probably increase to the point where all commonly used apps are available, just as Android has most commonly used apps optimized (considering third party twitter and facebook apps). However, unlike Android tablets, and most notably Apple's iPad at launch, WinRT tablets cannot use any legacy or phone apps. This could reduce the rate of adoption of WinRT tablets, which could in turn reduce the rate of Metro app development. After all, Microsoft can only encourage a limited number of developers (like netflix) to have an app ready at launch. Perhaps the biggest advantage Microsoft has in this regard is its own Office suite preloaded, but the full Microsoft Office, with its hidden menus and thousands of obscure features, will never be the ideal tablet office suite.There is absolutely no backwards compatibility. Where will the apps for your WinRT tablet come from? How will the situation be better than it was after the Motorola Xoom launch?
As for apps on the Intel tablet, legacy support is available. But using desktop apps on a tablet is not ideal. Nor is using tablet apps where desktop apps could be more usable and functional.
Ultimately, the value of Microsoft's product depends on the availability of optimized apps, and the lack of Metro apps is largely being ignored. The success of Microsoft's product, on the other hand, depends quite a bit on advertising and appeal of the Microsoft brand to the public, which also remains to be seen.