Microsoft’s Surface Pro will go on sale Feb. 9, and the company decided to drum up some publicity for the big event by sending the Surface team to answer questions from the Reddit community. The resulting Ask Me Anything was a pretty civil affair, although the team did end up defending the Surface Pro’s relatively short battery life—a major criticism in many of the professional reviews popping up around the Web.
Surface Pro is a substantial bet for Microsoft, which built the device’s hardware and software in-house. While the company has also sold Windows 8 licenses to third-party device manufacturers, in keeping with its longtime business model, Surface is clearly meant to be a “flagship device.”
Microsoft has already released a version of Surface loaded with Windows RT, a variant of Windows 8 designed to run on devices powered by ARM architecture, but much is resting on whether Surface Pro can succeed in the marketplace: equipped with the “full” Windows 8, it can run the Windows legacy applications demanded by businesspeople and gamers—something not possible on Windows RT.
When asked during the AMA about the choice to release Surface with Windows RT and Windows 8, and whether that would spark confusion among potential buyers, the team offered a response:
“Windows 8 introduced a lot of change from the UX to the app model to the store. Of course that all started with an expansion of the platforms we run on to include ARM. When we designed the new Windows runtime (WinRT) we designed it to be cross platform so new Windows 8 apps could run on both X86 and ARM platforms. Windows RT is what we called the version of Windows that runs on ARM because it is compatible with WinRT apps. You’re asking a more general question and we haven’t faced having to explain a range of platforms since the introduction of Windows NT and will keep investing in driving clarity.”
However, the team didn’t clarify on that “investing in driving clarity” point. Moving on, AMA participants asked about the Surface Pro’s battery life, which is rated at four to five hours, or about half that of the Surface RT—and somewhat less than many laptops and tablets on the market. After suggesting that the Surface Pro was “designed to take full advantage of Windows 8 coupled with the Ivy Bridge core processor from Intel,” the team defended the device’s power performance:
“If you compare it to say a MacBook Air, you will quickly see that pound for pound in battery size vs battery life, you will find optimizations that puts Surface best in its class.“
Of course, there was also a caveat:
“That said we picked a smaller battery to be sure we were able to give you the same performance and to keep it thin. This kept the weight under 2lbs, and still kept it thin enough to take advantage of our great Windows work for inking and give you a great inking experience (like pressure sensitive inking, ability to do kanji, great sketching). While these tradeoffs are challenges as much as they are opportunities, we think given the performance and experience you will be getting, it is an exciting product.”
The team did its best to keep the Surface Pro’s weight and thickness in check, which led to certain tradeoffs with battery size. Throughout the AMA, they insisted that Microsoft had built the best of all worlds, a speedy tablet capable of running some truly crunchy productivity applications. Those interested can read through all the answers—including some in-depth discussions about hardware—on Reddit.