Microsoft Surface 7 Possible but Windows 8 Store is Critical

Posted on 12 April 2013 by



x70_windows7-slate_thumbThe Wall Street Journal says that “people familiar” with Microsoft’s plans are tipping a new line-up of Surface Tablets, including a 7-inch model.

Is the ultra mobile PC coming back or are Microsoft planning a Windows RT-based 7-inch tablet?

It’s simple. If the Windows Store grows, there’s an opportunity for some innovation in this area. But only if the Windows Store grows considerably.

We’ve talked about the possibility of a 7-inch Windows tablet based on Clovertrail or Bay Trail before. When asked in February, Microsoft didn’t deny it. There are no major physical issues (the image shows a 7-inch Viliv product that was planned two years ago) and the Windows 8 software, with it’s Connected Standby capability, was likely written with that in mind but what form would it take? Pro ultra mobile PC or basic RT? Windows RT seems the best candidate right now.

Although some of us would like to see a full desktop experience in the hand, this may not be the best approach to bringing a tablet into a market that is consumption-led and highly competitive. True, the 7-inch tablet that can be docked into full-PC mode could be a unique selling point and processing platforms like Bay Trail could enable that but there are costs to consider. The 7-inch tablet market now is a low-price market and a $500 7-inch tablet could be too much of a shock for the mainstream customer, and tech journalists. No-doubt Microsoft already have something in the lab but it’s RT that’s fit-for-purpose here as long as the confusing and limited desktop is removed and, most importantly, the Windows 8 Store matures.

A 7-Inch Windows RT tablet would also be the perfect bridge for Windows Phone applications too and we know that Microsoft is moving to connect the two operating systems in a way that could allow Windows Phone apps to run, or be recompiled quickly to run on Windows 8 and Windows RT, at some point in the future.

There’s no doubt in my mind that both Intel and ARM partners will be trying to get their feet in the Microsoft door with this product and there’s scope for a RT and Pro version (Pro with docking station and true PC flexibility) but both will depend on Windows 8 Store.

If Microsoft let those Windows Phone apps run on Windows 8/RT, everything is possible. It will take time and a late 2013 or early 2014 launch seems like the right timeframe. I’m positive we’ll see something in that space. I’m also positive we’ll see other vendors exploring this product space too.

Let’s keep an eye on ASUS and other high-risk-taking OEMs over the next 6 months. If everything works out to plan, we could be seeing more than one 7-inch UMPC/RT/Surface product at CES next January.

Source: WSJ

Categorized | Opinion

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Morrison says:

    If it’s running RT then I’m going to pass and just get an Android tablet. I’d still get the Android tablet even if it costs a lot more than the 7″ RT tablet.

    The only time I’ll use a Windows tablet running ARM is when there is one desktop OS for both ARM and x86. I don’t mind losing the ability to run software from past OS’s on an ARM Windows device but I definitely would want to run current desktop software.

  2. relbeli says:

    Key questions will be how much Intel charges for Atom & how much MS will charge for a licensing fee. Because right now highend ARM chips go for around $30 & Android is free. In this small tablet pricing war they cant go above the iPad Mini $330 or it’s over.

  3. peejay says:

    “as long as the confusing and limited desktop is removed”… I don’t understand your view on this, Chippy. On WinRT Office is implemented via the desktop, and Office on a tablet is a major differentiation from the competition, and significant additional functionality. If it was taken away from Windows RT, I would not buy it. Leave the desktop and Office there for people who want it, tweak the OS so you don’t need to use the desktop mode if you don’t want to (eg more complete Modern implementation of the control panel).

    I’d pay a premium for a Windows 8 7″ convertible tablet, by the way.

  4. Ian Dixon says:

    I would love to see a 7 inch Surface RT, it would take me back to the Samsung Q1 days but more usable.

  5. emil says:

    @Morrison
    Ya, I also prefer Windows 8 or if RT is just killed off and Windows 8 was made for both architectures.

    @relbeli
    According to http://ark.intel.com/products/70105/Intel-Atom-Processor-Z2760-1MB-Cache-1_80-GHz Intel has a suggested price of $41.00. I’m not sure what actual prices Intel’s OEM partners are getting but it’s possible they’re getting a discount.

    MS can also discount the Windows license for major OEMs plus the bloatware can also offset the cost. At least on Windows 8 you can uninstall pre-loaded 3rd party apps easily. That’s why Linux PCs aren’t always cheaper. A personal example was when my work ordered a Dell Precision workstation. A no OS configuration cost $100 more than one with Windows even though all the other options were the same.

    @peejay
    I agree. One of the main complaints about RT is that it’s Windows 8 but severely limited. Limiting it even more will probably hurt MS at this point. MS would have probably had more success if they made an OS more similar to Windows Phone than 8 from the start. That way, people won’t see it as a limited Windows 8 but a more robust Windows Phone for tablets. It’s too late for that now.

  6. Mike Cane says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up as a Barnes & Noble exclusive tablet first, given MS’ $300M investment in Nook Media. Thing is, an 8″ 4:3 tablet is more suited to reading.

  7. James says:

    @Mike Cane – Maybe, some people do prefer larger, but that never stopped the vast majority of e-readers being around 6″… and a thinner 7″ would be easier to pocket than a wider 8″ tablet.

    Would help if most of the text isn’t stuck to a specific layout and reforms to the dimensions being displayed. So trouble would be mainly with static layouts, like with PDFs, etc.

    For the OS… RT is suppose to be merged with Windows 8 under the upcoming Code Blue (Windows 8.1) upgrade. Suggesting they’ll be eliminating the limitations of RT to whatever can run on the hardware.

    The newer Cortex A15 ARM SoCs are suppose to have better support for things like hardware accelerated virtualization that could be a factor that wasn’t available before for example and they could take advantage of that now.

    Though it depends if MS will use ARM or ATOM for this tablet… Since they could opt for the upcoming Bay Trail that could offer up to 2x the performance of Clover Trail and 3x the graphical performance, and of course eliminate any compatibility concerns.

    While the improvements to the UI from the Code Blue upgrade may be a factor as well but for all we know at this point this could just a be a Windows Phone 8 tablet. So it’s all speculation at this point…

    A dock option for desktop usage is a good idea though regardless of what they do for the tablet itself.