Microsoft’s Surface tablets will launch as a Wi-Fi-only device, according to a pair of unnamed sources speaking to Bloomberg.
Whether that places the devices at a disadvantage against Apple’s iPad, which features models with a cellular connection in addition to Wi-Fi, remains to be seen. Despite the Surface tablets’ high-profile reveal at a June 18 event in Los Angeles, Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about pricing and many of the hardware specs.
Microsoft is building the Surface tablets in-house, forsaking its usual model of supplying software to OEMs. It’s embarked on such a strategy before, with mixed results: while the Xbox franchise eventually proved a hit with consumers, its Zune music player (positioned as an iPod rival) failed to gain traction in the marketplace.
One version of Surface will run Windows 8 Pro on a third-generation Intel Core processor. The other will feature Windows RT on an ARM processor. Both devices feature 10.6-inch touchscreens, a kickstand, and a screen cover that doubles as a keyboard. In theory, that form-factor mashes together all the portability of a tablet with all the functionality of a laptop.
If the pattern established by the iPad and other tablets is any indication, then a Wi-Fi-only Surface tablet will also be cheaper than a 3G- or 4G-equipped equivalent. However, some analysts (including Creative Strategies’ Ben Bajarin, speaking to Bloomberg) feel that only equipping Surface tablets with Wi-Fi could limit their versatility, particularly since the devices rely so heavily on cloud services and apps.
Surface was only the first of Microsoft’s big announcements this week. On June 20, the company revealed crucial details about Windows Phone 8, the next version of its smartphone platform. Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share a kernel, file system, graphics support and other elements. That allows developers to port apps from Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8, setting the foundation for a good deal of interoperability between the devices.
In the process of upgrading the Windows Phone platform, Microsoft is leaving Windows Phone 7.x behind. Apps developed for Windows 8 won’t run on the older platform, and Microsoft executives have kept notably silent on whether Windows Phone 7 will receive any major updates beyond Windows Phone 7.8, expected sometime this fall.
Together, those platforms represent Microsoft’s big chance to make its mark in a segment currently dominated by Google and Apple—one that’s mobility-focused, and heavily reliant on the cloud, and increasingly seems like the future.