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Microsoft Surface Pro has problems but also big promise

Rob Enderle | Feb. 18, 2013
The Microsoft Surface Pro tries to be a tablet and an ultrabook, but it brings out the worst in both devices. If Microsoft gets v2.0 right, though, people may be willing to replace their iPads.

Make a two-in-one product, then, and you have an ultrabook with a small screen and poor keyboard and a tablet that has too much weight and too little battery life.

Surface Pro 2.0 Will Be Worth the Wait

If Microsoft Surface Pro had twice the battery life and a better keyboard-one that was more than just an accessory-it would be a far more attractive offering and come close to the ideal device the market wants. Reduce the weight on top that and the Surface comes close to hitting a home run.

Luckily, solutions are near at hand. There are a number of ways to add battery life, such as additional battery capacity or accessories. Microsoft (or other vendors) will improve the keyboard over time. Finally, the next generation of Intel of processors will allow for better energy efficiency (and a longer battery life) as well as less weight.

With the right accessories and the technology improvements we can anticipate over the next two years, Microsoft Surface Pro could become far more compelling and approach the ideal of an ultrabook that can replace the iPad. (Keep in mind that, for folks to see the Surface Pro as a value, they have to compare it to both the MacBook Air and the iPad, but most will compare the Surface Pro to just the iPad and think it's too expensive.)

Until then, Surface RT serves as a better iPad alternative. All it needs is an Outlook client to become nearly perfect-and Microsoft could do that relatively quickly, without forcing customers to buy a new tablet. In the meantime, the upcoming Lenovo ThinkPad Helix may come closer to the ideal of a notebook that can morph into a usable tablet.

Microsoft did an amazing job trying to make an Ultrabook into a tablet, but the technology just isn't where it needs to be to make that possible. Surface Pro is a decent first shot, but I'd wait for the second act.

Rob Enderle is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance and Security. Currently, Enderle writes on emerging technology, security and Linux for a variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.


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