Would Microsoft Surface be able to keep up with Android Tablets?

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The technology Giant Microsoft has ventured in the tablet making business following the foot steps of Google and Apple. The tablet Surface is obviously meant to compliment Microsofts’s latest edition of flagship operating system Windows 8, that has been revamped drastically to suit touchscreen devices.

Microsoft claims to have built a tablet that can be used not only for content consumption ( that both iPad and Android tablets are known for) but also for content creation. At the moment, the tablet looks promising, but will Microsofts’s brand new tablet take on the overwhelming Android tablets in the tablet market?

Surface tablets will be available in Windows RT (for ARM, targeting home users) and Windows 8 Pro (for Intel, aiming at the corporate sector ). Windows RT tablets features a Tegra processor (possibly the quad core Tegra 3 clocked above 1.4GHz), a microSD card slot, USB 2.0 (rather than mini/micro USB), a MicroHDMI port. Thankfully it is not at all bulky! The tablet is just 676g with a 9.3mm thickness, a 10.6in screen and 1,366 x768 pixels resolution; yes that means Surface outshines prominent Android tablets here. Its counterpart, Surface for Windows 8 Pro is powered by an Intel low voltage Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor clocked at 1.7GHz, according to initial reports. It features USB 3.0, a microSDXC card reader, a 42Whr battery, Mini DisplayPort, 2×2 MIMO antennae and a 10.6in ClearType Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 capacitive display. The tablet weighs about 903g and is 13.5mm thick, available with either 64GB or 128GB onboard storage. Having speculated what Surface has to offer, let’s investigate some other aspects of the tablet.

Battery Life
Android is a platform specifically for mobile devices. It is light weight operating system and developed to leverage from the limited resources available on a mobile device. In contrast Windows 8 is a unified platform that will run on desktop as well as mobile devices: as for the current information. While this can be beneficial in some cases it raises a serious question about the battery life! Though Microsoft has not said a word about it but it is truly doubted if windows will be able to deliver the known functionalities of desktop to a tablet yet offering a battery life as much as Android tablets. Tablets featuring Windows OS have been notorious in offering poor battery life. For example Acer W800 from the last year suffered from excessive battery drainage. Though it is yet to be seen, facts point to a battery life not par with Android devices.

Microsofts failure in mobile devices business already
Microsoft has also endeavoured in the smartphone business to compete with Google’s android and Apple’s iPhone with its Windows phone. But unfortunately Microsoft has pretty badly failed In it despite the not-so-bad phone. Android currently claims for the largest market share of about 59% in contrast to windows that only secured 2.2% market share in Q1, 2012.
It’s partly because Google’s Android phones (and iPhone with a smaller portion) have saturated the market already. windows phone is late to venture; and partly because of the humdrum specs of the Windows phone. Today android phones offer just way more than Windows smartphones while Microsoft remains slow to adopt latest tech trends. Without going into details what marked the failure, the point I want to make is MS has already failed in one of the two frontiers of mobile platform I.e. Smartphones: this is not to say that MS will definitely fail in the other frontier ( I.e. the tablets ) but it surely raises doubts. Also, now the consumers are clever. They want to have their personalised ecosystem with content synchronised. Evidently consumers with Android based smartphones will opt for Android based tablets.

The OS and the design
In our usability analysis of the new software we saw that the metro UI is only a fake skin to the underlying desktop OS much the same as Windows 7. The metro UI is definitely pleasant for fingers, windows 7 is just not. From what we have from the preview of Windows 8 is the start menu takes up the metro UI with a TILE reading ‘Desktop’ that is a door to your traditional desktop Windows( that has the Start button omitted).
If at heart of widows 8 lies typical Windows 7 then it wont be a real good option for tablets. Windows 7 was optimized to be compatible with touch screens and Tablets: but it was not designed from scratch for touch Tablets. There is a difference.
From my experience of using virtual keyboard on Acer W800, it was certainly very-very unfriendly. Whenever you need to enter text in a text field you will have to follow a number of steps. Firstly tap on a text entry box. With this a keyboard icon will appear next to the cursor. To bring about the virtual keyboard you will have to tap this icon again. On dismissing the virtual keyboard it’ll hide itself on the side of the screen. You will have to drag the virtual keyboard back on-stage each time you want to type. So it is quiet a hassle here.
But this time there is a good twist because you wont have to encounter the virtual keyboard as much. MS Surface comes with a super-thin keyboard case that attaches to the device with magnets. But wait! Attaching a physical keyboard with tablets is not a new idea!
ASUS Transformer and ASUS Transformer Prime both featuring Android come with keyboard. But the design of both the tablets is far superior. The keyboard bring goodies like trackpad and number of extra connection options too. Also, the keyboard attaches with the tablet via hinge so that you are able to incline the tablet at any angle with the keyboard and even close it like a netbook. ASUS Slider and Acer W800 also integrate a physical keyboard.
Well having a physical keyboard can definitely boast the productivity with a tablet but this is not necessarily a good idea!Microsoft is not ready to part with keyboard and touchpad- a hardware that limits the portability that Tablets seek to bring. As Surface comes with a keyboard this is some what certain that Windows 8 can be best experienced with a keyboard. But unfortunately not all vendors would like to integrate the additional bulky hardware. This can both lead to weight and cost. What would you do with a Windows 8 tablet that does not feature a keyboard?
On the contrary Android being specially built for touch devices from scratch caters almost any action that you might want to do on a touch screen. Yet interestingly as Android is a open source ( terms apply) it can be taken by any manufacturer and changed in any way. This makes Android more feasible OS for many.
Windows brings with it the inherent vulnerabilities of virus, malware and Trojans. Windows 8 will come with a built in Virus protection. But If you have already bought a 3rd party antivirus subscription then surface tablet won’t be the device that will likely get it because of it’s limited space.
We have already seen that multitasking on Windows 8 is not clever or convenient. In contrast Android devices specialise in true multitasking. Android icecream sandwich improves it even more by displaying the open apps in vertical bar.

The same browser!
Yet another downside is the very same browser. IE has failed in desktops Chrome overtaking it already. Mobile devices are all about the browser and IE is no good. This is yet to see how much freedom does Windows 8 offers to download 3rd party apps outside the app store. Only if it does, windows 8 can survive on tablets. There is great deal of confusion when it comes to apps and programs on tables and desktops.
On the other hand, Android comes with a decent built in browser that does almost anything you can expect with a browser of TODAY. Besides this you have some seriously impressive choices like Firefox, Chrome and Dolphin HD. All of them enable synchronisation ( chrome and Firefox also synchronise open tabs on the desktop browser and support offline reading). And above all they are secure, something that IE is notorious for.

The Price
the pricing expected is about $600 for the 32GB version and $700 for the 64GB model. While for Surface Pro, it is expected that the price tag will be as much as that of Ultrabooks I.e. Around $1000. This price tag is just too much when compared to Android tables. Luckily android tablets are available in countless form factors, big small thick thin, for kids for adults and so on and so forth. There is Kindle Fire, the android tablet of the year and there is Samsung galaxy tab on the other end of spectrum. You have a whole bunch of tablets to choose from according to your budget. This freedom of choice is not yet available with Surface.

Branding
Many, including ARM Holdings CEO Warren East says that Microsoft may have a branding edge with Windows 8 tablets over Android. Bit i personally think, having Microsoft and Windows brand name can be both good and bad. Good because even today over 80% desktops run Windows and people are very much familiar to the environment. and settings, having a minimal learning curve; hey but if you are thinking so, you got it wrong! The catch is that Windows 8 is completely changed, having dumped most of the things so integral to the OS, like the Start menu. Bad because many people are beginning to loath MS for its monopoly and because Windows is not a respectable name for mobile devices.but surely Brand name alone cannot change the scenario, at least today when people are getting more and More tech savy.

Microsoft has left many unanswered questions with the announcement of Windows 8 tablet Surface. Though when comparing to android tablets Surface does feel to be lacking a few things, it has some dangerous trump cards. One of which is, of course, Microsoft office. I have been working with Pages on iPad and Polaris Office on ASUS but none of them can be compared to the MS Office. Surface is expected to feature Windows Office home & Student 2013 RT. Having Office on the tablet can be a very attractive feature for masses who want to use their tablet for content production along with consumption also.

Having improved on the battery life and having a generous collection in the Windows app store can be a game changer for Windows- but I don’t see Surface to be a serious threat for Android. Android is a class of its own. An open source platform that can be customised by vendors to suit their hardware design and requirements; android runs on not just regular tablets but on kids tablets, e-book readers, low cost tablets and a variety of devices. It can be used on devices optimised for content consumption and it can also be used on devices for content production for eg. Asus transformer. Android has some lust worthy features like face unlock, the camera app, there is the latest ‘just beam in’ functionality where you can transfer information to a compatible phone by touching the phones together; and it is adding on more and more. I think windows it yet again late in the business however it’s for time to decide which tablet actually succeed. Would you prefer Android over Windows tablets!

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