Go ahead and forget all about the original Surface RT and Surface Pro. They came, they flopped, and Microsoft ate its fair share of crow prepared long ago by Acer. It was also a learning experience for Microsoft -- albeit an expensive one -- and hopefully the lessons learned will result in a smoother Surface 2 launch and warmer reception than its predecessor. Yes, there will be a Surface 2, and this is what we know about it so far.
Piles of unsold Surface inventory are sitting in Redmond, and part of the reason for that is because it's extremely tough to sell a $499+ non-iPad tablet to the masses, a lesson Google's hardware partners found out early on. That doesn't mean Windows 8 tablets are a bust, they just need to come down in price and have more apps available. Toshiba is taking care of the first part by launching the appropriately named Encore.
Windows 8 helped sparked a generation of unique PC designs, the newest of which is Sony's Vaio Flip, one of several new Vaio units the company announced today. The Vaio Flip PC is a conventional notebook that "flips" into a tablet PC. That's been done before -- Lenovo's Yoga and Dell's XPS 12 immediately come to mind -- but the Flip also boasts a viewer mode that the others don't.
Samsung's foray into phablet territory began with the release of the original Galaxy Note in 2011, a 5.3-inch device with a 1.4GHz or 1.5GHz dual-core processor (depending on territory). That journey into tweener territory continues today with the official launch of the Galaxy Note 3, the biggest and fastest Galaxy Note to date. Samsung also unveiled a new tablet (Galaxy Note 10.1) and smart watch (Galaxy Gear).
After the clusterhump surrounding Microsoft's Surface strategy that resulted in the Redmond outfit taking a $900 million charge on unsold inventory, you might not think Steve Ballmer and company would be all that eager to release a second generation slate. Not only is there strong evidence to support the notion that Surface 2 is coming, but there are even details on what hardware will be inside.
We test Microsoft’s Surface Pro workhorse tablet in several common desktop-use cases to see how it stacks up to a traditional PC
For the last three years, there have been questions about what the spectacular rise of the iPad and other tablet computers means for the traditional desktop PC. Are tablet sales cannibalizing PC sales (the “post-PC” worldview), or is this simply a new category that people are buying alongside traditional computers? Will the tablet remain a third device, between a smartphone and a PC, or will it gradually take over the role that’s currently played by laptop and desktop computers? With the release of the Surface Pro, Microsoft isn’t making these questions any easier to answer.
Note: This feature was originally featured in the June 2013 issue of the magazine.
Whatever plans Microsoft may have had for Windows RT heading into 2014 may need to be adjusted. Consumers just aren't buying Windows RT devices, and with sales being as weak as they are, Microsoft's OEM partners are beginning to lose interest, too. Case in point, Asus has reportedly decided to stop producing Windows RT tablets, which run on ARM-based processors rather than x86 chips.
We suppose it was inevitable that a class action lawsuit of some sort would be filed against Microsoft over its handling of Surface RT. If you recall, Microsoft was never very forthcoming about its Surface RT sales figures, waiting until its Q4 2013 earnings report to reveal that Surface RT was essentially a flop, causing the company to take a $900 million charge on unsold inventory. The class action suit filed against Microsoft accuses the company of making misleading statements in regards to its financial performance and Surface RT in particular.
Amazon's become a bit predictable as of late, at least regarding its Kindle line. It goes something like this: Launch a tablet, ride it out with occasional discounts, slash the price one last time, rinse and repeat. If you head over to Amazon right now, you'll notice that the Kindle Fire HD now starts at $159, down $40 from its list price of $199. The most likely explanation is that Amazon is clearing out inventory to make room for a refreshed Kindle Fire HD line.
Microsoft found out the hard way that it's not so easy competing in the hardware space, just as Acer warned. On the flip side, Google proved that success stories are possible by launching its own brand Nexus 7 tablet (built by Asus), which is widely considered the best Android tablet available. Now there's talk that Nvidia might jump into the hardware space with an Android tablet of its own.