Microsoft Surface Pricing

Microsoft is apparently trying to quietly reinvent itself as an expensive software company to undercutting the competition. First it announced it will be making Windows 8 painless and affordable to upgrade to. Now apparently Microsoft is looking to make its tablet ultra affordable.

According to Engadget, Microsoft is looking at making its tablet $199, which would be a major shakeup to the tablet market. At that price even hardware partners can’t compete. Priced the same as the Kindle Fire it would run Windows RT. It looks pretty polished, more so than anything else in that price range.

Clearly Microsoft is trying a different route than it has in recent years. Given how late they are to the market, this is pretty much a requirement if they want to have a chance.

Apple iPad Thoughts

So the iPad is now official (like it was yesterday).

The most interesting thing is they bumped the OS version to 3.2. I suspect this summer we’ll see a 4.0 for a much more radically changed iPhone than we’ve seen in the past 2 revisions. Otherwise I think they would have called this 4.0.

Some semi-random thoughts:

  • It’s an oversized iPhone/iPod touch. It’s software really isn’t revolutionary, at least so far.
  • It will be hard to compete with the Kindle. The Kindle’s screen isn’t back-lit hence it’s easier on the eyes. Don’t underestimate this.
  • Typing on a solid surface can’t be that comfortable, especially if you touch type. It works on the iPhone since you use your more padded thumbs. It’s not a laptop replacement.
  • It may be thin and light, but it’s not as mobile as phone. It’s not a mobile replacement.
  • It has the potential to be a GREAT gaming device.
  • It has the potential to hurt netbook sales by serving as a handy “around the house” internet device.
  • It’s wireless pricing and iTunes are combined to make it feel cheap to own/operate but will still get expensive quickly.
  • It’s sold unlocked. They are catching up with Google in that regard. I wouldn’t be shocked if the iPhone is soon sold on similar terms this summer. UMTS/HSDPA.
  • That black bezel will likely disappear once they can shrink the internals in future revisions. It will eventually become closer to the iPhone.
  • Still a mostly closed platform. The justification on the iPhone was security since it’s a safety device as well. Why the iPad?

Confirmation of the Tablet

The tablet was a foregone conclusion. Since late last year even if Apple didn’t want to build one, investors pretty much forced it upon them with the hype. Failure to produce at least a proof of concept by the end of the quarter would really hurt the stock.

Terry McGraw, CEO of McGraw-Hill decided to announce it a day early. Newsweek jumped the gun in 2004 with an iPod update. I’m sure their legal team is working late tonight.

With it presumably comes iPhone OS 4.0 preview for developers.

Either tomorrow or next month Apple will announce an update to the MacBook Pro lineup. It’s now 232 days since the last update (avg 200) and will likely get Core i5 and Core i7’s and slight hardware tweaks. I think Blu-Ray is still 50/50. Apple might hold this until early or mid February so it’s not overshadowed by the tablet announcement.

Likely a few other tweaks to the lineups, perhaps a CPU bump on the Mac Pro’s and perhaps a small tweak to the iPod lineup (more storage, new colors nothing major) though I expect the iPod/iPhone focus to be in June not now.

The Apple Tablet

Everyone has been speculating about this alleged Apple tablet device due out this month. I’m just going to sit and wait. Why? Because it was “imminent” according to analysts and sources claimed Apple was buying up touch screens a decade ago. It’s now 2010 and we’re playing the same game. When rumors got into a real frenzy in 2001 it turned out to be the iPod.

It’s interesting that many who hate the iPhone’s virtual keyboard are fascinated with the Apple tablet. Like it or not, the Internet is still a text-based medium and will be for some time. I’m skeptical the “minority report interface” will be ready by the end of the month.

So we’ll see what happens. I’ll likely make my usual “predictions” post a day or two before hand.

The Future Of Tablet Computing & Netbooks

Two of the biggest buzzwords in mobile computing right now (besides iPhone and Android) are Tablet Computing and Netbooks. Many people expect one of them to be the successor to laptops. I don’t think it will be quite that simple.

Tablet Computing

Modern tablet computing designs are really all based on Allan Kay’s 1968 Dynabook design. While never constructed, it’s almost obvious design has influenced many companies to make desktops and laptops that are controlled via a touchscreen. PDA’s and smartphones also follow this basic design closely, though I wouldn’t really consider these devices to be tablet computers.

A few laptops manufacturers offer a tablet variant of a laptop. One of the most popular is Lenovo’s X Series. It’s a regular laptop minus some modifications to allow for a touch display and a special hinge system. All the power of a laptop with the convenience (and cool factor) of a touch screen.

The downsides of this are obvious. Laptops aren’t that light, they are power hungry and have moving parts (hard drives in particular). They also don’t come cheap.

Netbooks

Netbooks have gained considerable ground in the past year. A netbook is really no different than a typical laptop except it’s smaller, lighter, more power efficient (thanks to a slower power efficient cpu and smaller screen) and cheaper. By focusing on a handful of terminal activities such as browsing the web and email they can scale back on most of the fancy hardware.

One of the most popular Netbooks is the ASUS Eee PC. It’s advantages over a typical laptop are it’s low cost, small size, and weight.

The downsides here are speed, small screen and small keyboard.

The Merge

CPU’s have advanced significantly in the past few years. One of the most obvious changes is multiple cores. Another less obvious but equally important evolution is power efficiency thanks to a new breed of chips like the Intel Atom.

Touchscreens have gotten significantly better. The most obvious is the iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen. As opposed to resistive touchscreens and a stylus the ability to handle multitouch revolutionizes the interface.

Solid State Storage (SSD) has also dropped in price and increased in availability. This means that storage is faster, consumes less power and more reliable in a mobile device than previous hard drive technology would allow.

Users have also evolved in computer usage. Several years ago almost everyone used an email client. Now many are using webmail only thanks to improved interfaces. Even spreadsheets and office documents can be handled with a web interface. The need for client side computing is becoming less of a necessity for many people. Wireless networks have only sped this up.

I suspect that due to these current trends tablets and netbooks will blur and move towards a new category of ultraportable computing. Obviously just small evolutionary changes could drastically change this but that’s how I interpret the current trends.

Apple today offers laptops with dual GPU’s to save power and allow for higher performance by selecting the GPU. I suspect it’s even possible to eventually see dual CPU’s where one could be selected for performance, and another for better power consumption (great for when just browsing the web).

I suspect the rumor of an Apple tablet coming Q3 will fall largely along these lines and accelerate the merge between tablet computing and netbooks. Time will tell.