Thunderbolt, where is it?
Seriously Microsoft, I think you blew it with the Surface for Windows 8 Pro. Yes, it has Ivy Bridge. Yes, it has a 1080p display. And yes, it has a 600DPI digitizer. It even has a lovely keyboard attachment. How is this not the device of my dreams, you say?
Well, it is but for one thing: Thunderbolt. You know, the (PCI-e based) port with the 10GBps transfer speeds? USB3 is enough? Think again, there's more applications to a port than just filetransfers. This is a true PCI port, you can do whatever (like an latency-free RJ45 adapter).
Not only that, there's this whole 1 screen emphasis in Windows 8 (well, apart from the improved multi-monitor support). Even at the press-conference Microsoft emphasized the ability to use it as a tablet and as a PC. And than there's SmartScreen. Anandtech has put up this article about the Acer w700 and how it (a thunderbolt-rocking x86 tablet) will be the next big thing in computing or something along those lines. He is correct, and I'll show you why.
Imagine this: You wake up, grab a cup of coffee and start reading the news on your iPad. You forget about your surroundings. Suddenly it's 4pm and you're way late for work. You're fired.
Now that very same scenario using a Windows 8 tablet: You wake-up, read the news on your Windows 8 tablet. This time you do not forget work because right on the homescreen you noticed that you have an important meeting at 9, thanks to the Calendar tile. Making your way to work, you're reminded that you have a piece due for today. Luckily, it's a 2-hour train ride, so you click in your laptop dock and start typing away. Arriving just in time, you're told to show a video over WiDi (where's that too?) to the projector. Another problem appears, as you moved the file to the server due to the limited size of an SSD. Luckily there's an Ethernet port in the area and you can transfer/stream that 4k video in no time.
After work, you get home. It has been a stressful day, so you might want to shoot some aliens and koreans (your boss is both of these). What would do the job better than Crysis? So you insert your tablet into the desktop dock and go shooting in Enthousiast settings at 1560p.
Crysis at 1560p is a bit of a stretch, but all of these ideas are perfectly possible. You'd have at your desktop a dock with a desktop-class GPU, some more ports, a card reader and extra storage for the stuff that you won't need on the go (I.E Maya or recourse intensive games). For content creation on-the-go you'd have your Laptop dock with the same idea behind it (but with maybe a mobile GPU and batteries). If you just want to consume you use none of these. Top it off with WiDi and you really have the one device.
Now I'm sure some of you are like: "Thunderbolt only equals to PCI Express 2x-3x, that isn't enough" And on the former you'd be correct. The latter though, no no no, fine sir; in the past there have been numerous (a couple) tests regarding PCI-e slots, and they found that even on a 2X port there is little to no difference in performance, showing only a 2-4 frame drop for GPUs. These tests are aging though and something like a 690GTX will be probably be affected, but do note that MSI is already showing a Thunderbolt GPU case for the Macbook Air. And then there is true LightPeak which should be even faster.
How Microsoft missed this is beyond me, and why they decided against a Thunderbolt port seems just downright dumb. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks it has something to do with not upsetting OEM partners trying to sell Ultrabooks. Whatever the chase is, it doesn't matter. I'll still be getting some Windows 8 tablet, and the Surface for Windows 8 Pro seems like a definite contender. If Lenovo, Dell or Samsung (and what about Sony? A VAIO tablet would be amazing) do show the ultimate device, then it will be mine in a heartbeat.