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Sorry, but Microsoft’s partners are building better tablets than the Surface Pro

imageLet me start by saying that I own a Surface RT and I love it. It’s not perfect but it’s remarkable for what it’s capable of and carrying it around instead of a laptop is a game changer for me. But in the back of my head I couldn’t help but to think I was throwing away money that I could have used towards a Surface Pro. I’m an admitted early adopter and Microsoft fan boy so on some level I needed a Surface RT. But it is what it is.

So, do I plan to buy a Surface Pro? No. Do I plan to recommend it to other? Sadly, no. And it’s not pricing that’s leading me to this conclusion (but we all now they priced it on the mid-to-high level and not the low end). The real problem is that it’s missing some key features that other Windows 8 tablets will have.

Let’s just look at the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 or the HP Envy x2. I’m picking these because they’re both convertibles, like the Surface. So they’re strength is that they are tablets that have detachable keyboards for heavy use. Many of the specs line up between all three tablets, but there are significant differences. To begin with, the Surface is lacking the new Clovertrail processor. What’s that mean to you? The Lenovo is slated for a 10 hour battery life, instant on and 25 days of connected standby. The Surface Pro is noted as half the battery life of the Surface RT (which is 8-10 hours depending on use, so divided by two and yeah, it’s half the battery life).  OK that in and of itself is a big deal. Anything else it has that the Surface is missing? How about GPS? That’s nice to have. And let’s add NFC to the mix. Again, it’s one of those things that ought to be there. And it’s cheaper and the Lenovo is sporting AT&T connectivity. The Lenovo also has an optional pen with palm rejection and there’s a dock that expands USB ports, adds an HDMI port and powers it on.  The Envy is rated for 7+ hours of battery and has Beats audio. It’s heavier with the keyboard but also has a pen option. Similar to the Surface it’s missing GPS and NFC. However you can order it now for $850 (ships December 17) and it comes with a free Nook and that price includes the keyboard. Meanwhile the Lenovo starts at $699 according to J&R and on Lenovo’s site the keyboard is slated to ship December 5 (which is a good hint as to availability). To be fair, the HD screen on the Surface is higher, but wasn’t Microsoft just telling us that the resolution of the Surface RT (which is the same as the Lenovo and Envy) shouldn’t be based on pixel count?

There’s more Clovertrail tablets out there and about to hit. That’s the beauty of Windows 8. And they’ll come with more accessories. I could have thrown more into the mix like the Samsung Ativ which you can buy now for $700 from AT&T.  Bottom line is that this market is widening rapidly and that means that the delayed Surface Pro has a fight on its hands.

I love the build of my Surface RT. It feels super premium. But I don’t see the value in the Surface Pro when it’s missing this many features, which may not be a big deal individually but in the aggregate I feel they’re a deal breaker.

Does that mean the Surface Pro is a failure? No. It’s not going to be about sales. It’s more about selling a new line of products. And it will make headlines and it will make noise and it will bring attention to this line of tablets. Microsoft can’t take out its partners. It wants to show them how to market and innovate and make noise. And that’s why the sales price is where it is. Microsoft is also learning a lesson in how hardware and software meet and they have to learn about supply chains and see how their partners deal with it so they can see how to streamline it. 

I’ve been here long enough. Tell me how wrong I am in the comments.