It’s only been a short while since Microsoft’s Surface RT officially debuted at retail stores, and so far, things aren’t exactly spelling promise for Redmond. Lag tendencies, underwhelming app market, mediocre screen-resolution, and unpredictable program/software bugs are only among the litany of issues making what’s initially hailed as the next potential technological breakthrough look like an unappealing, overpriced piece of hardware. The lackluster market performance–which is reportedly a far cry from the numbers posted by the iPad–is also speaking volumes about the tablet’s shaky start. As stated by Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, consumer interest in the Surface has apparently sunken so low that during the Black Friday sales, Microsoft’s hardware stores experienced 47% less “consumer traffic” than that of the Apple stores. The statistical results from Neilson’s Survey, likewise, paint an equally grim picture: for the “most wanted (Christmas) gift” category for children and teenagers, the Surface tablet’s results are on the bottom of the pile at 6% and 3%, respectively. The iPad’s respective numbers, in contrast, are 48% and 28%, notably trumping the performances of the Surface and electronic gadgets such as the Wii U (39% and 17%) and Samsung’s Galaxy series (9% and 9%).
Surface Pro to Come to the Rescue?
No question, the folks at Redmond are probably keen on doing whatever it takes to stop their flagship line from fading into obscurity. And in what appears to be an urgent move to restore consumer faith and interest, Microsoft representatives announced that the company would be releasing the Surface Pro during January 2013. As opposed to the RT model, the Surface Pro comes with much more promise and potential, given that the tablet offers the “actual” Windows 8 OS, a respectably powerful i5 processor from Intel, and notable upgrades in the display, memory, and graphics departments. A few concerning signals, though, are being observed by the tech community and should not be overlooked. According to an official twitter message unveiled by Engadget, the Surface Pro’s battery life is reportedly only 4 and a half hours, which is about half the amount offered by RT tablet. While such a drawback may be forgiven based on the demanding hardware requirements and the i5 processor, seeing that tablets such as the iPad and Nexus 10 offer battery life in the 10 hour range, and considering how various, less expensive ultrabooks are capable lasting longer than 4.5 hours, the Surface Pro will likely experience difficulty finding a large audience in the mobile industry, no matter how good its specs.
One other troubling signal worth noting is that the Surface Pro apparently does not come with Microsoft Office (a feature which, curiously, is available on the RT version). The trouble here is not so much the extra effort involved in downloading the program as it is the additional expenses incurred. The full version of Office is known to cost around $ 120 USD. Adding that to the Surface Pro’s starting price of $899 USD—for the 64GB model, and throwing in additional accessory costs such as the touch keyboard’s $100 USD, and consumers will find themselves paying a hefty $1100 USD for a something marketed as a “tablet” device.
The Future for the RT tablet
Regarding what’s going to happen to the RT model, if the report from Digitimes turns out to be accurate, Microsoft may begin contemplating about possible price cuts, and start shipping less units of the product (from 4 million to 2 million by the end of 2012). Factors identified as contributing to this trend include the Surface RT’s “weak market performances,” and the slow adoption to Windows 8, which NPD clams is almost “non-existent” (The Register).