Monday, January 14, 2013

In Depth: Surface 2: what we want to see

In Depth: Surface 2: what we want to see

In Depth: Surface 2: what we want to see

We already know that Microsoft is working on future models of its Surface tablet beyond the Core i5 Surface for Windows 8 Pro that comes out in January, thanks to job adverts revealing the kinds of experts Microsoft is hiring.

The latest rumours say that Surface Plus will be a whole range of devices rather than just a new tablet. But what will Microsoft add to Surface to keep competing with the iPad?

Surface 2: what we want to see

Many users would like to see Surface get more powerful.

It's unlikely that we'll ever be able to run any desktop apps apart from Office on any ARM-based Surface, because they would reduce the battery life so much. But we'd like to see more storage, an even higher screen resolution on the already-impressive screen â€" and the active pen from Surface Pro.

After all, Windows RT has excellent handwriting recognition and you can write notes in both the desktop version of OneNote and the OneNote for Windows 8 app that's free in the Windows Store.

Surface 2: what we want to see

But doing that with a capacitive pen (or, worse still, your finger) is awkward, because you can't rest your hand on the screen while you're writing, and the ink isn't as smooth as with an active pen.

The digitizer for an active pen would put the price up and maybe use a little more battery life, so we're not that hopeful.

Adding LTE to the next version of Surface is more likely, now that 4G services are rolling out in more countries than just the US.

And we're still hoping that Microsoft will be one of the first tablet makers to use the new high-speed, low-power 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, especially as even the first Surface model has twin antennas.

Surface 2: what we want to see

We'd like to see NFC in Surface Plus as well. It's not that you'd tap a full-sized tablet on an NFC reader to use it as a credit card or train ticket, but it would be ideal for pairing peripherals like a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard with Surface â€" given that Windows RT is one of the few tablet operating systems that can work with lots of different peripherals.

The fast charging in the Surface is why it needs a full power adapter, rather than just a USB cable, to charge from; you get a full charge in just a couple of hours.

We want to see Microsoft licence the magnetic power tip to accessory manufacturers so they can put it on chargers that work with lots of different devices or on external battery packs.

But we'd also like to see the same wireless charging the Nokia 920 has in Surface Plu s, so you could put it on a charging spot rather than fiddling with the power cable at all.

Take it a step further and you could use your Surface Plus to wirelessly charge your phone as well. (Fulton Innovations, one of the companies behind wireless charging, has promised to demonstrate charging a phone wirelessly from a tablet at CES 2013, although we doubt it will be a Surface.)

Impressive as the Touch Cover is, we'd like to see a wider range of keyboards to click onto the Surface; how about a gaming keyboard with custom buttons?

Surface 2: what we want to see

Talking of Touch Cover, it ought to be possible to have indicators on the Caps and Mute buttons to see when you have them tur ned on.

What we really expect is to see more colours of Touch Cover, perhaps using the same designs as the Artist Edition mice Microsoft produces.

Most of the rumours about Surface Plus suggest that it will be a range of devices with different size screens.

Surface 2: what we want to see

If what we're hearing about the scale of the manufacturing capability Microsoft has invested in is true (including the suggestion that Microsoft is putting together its own logistics service based in the far east to ship Surfaces around the world, which would explain several job postings on the Microsoft careers site for worldwide logistics experts), it makes sense for Surface Plus to be more than a si ngle model.

We've been predicting for a while that there will be new versions of Windows and Windows RT every year; the first update seems to be going by the codename Blue.

Assuming that comes out in autumn 2013, we'd expect to see the first Surface Plus models at the same time â€" perhaps a 7 or 8" tablet optimized for web browsing and reading ebooks to compete with the iPad Mini.

That could finally make sense of Microsoft's joint venture with Nook makers Barnes and Noble.

Another rumour suggests an Xbox-branded gaming Surface to go with the new Xbox that we might finally see in 2013, perhaps with upgraded graphics so you can play more powerful games (which might help explain the senior imaging engineer position Microsoft is recruiting for to "develop the best video quality" and "improve overall display quality").

That would take advan tage of the Xbox SmartGlass remote control app in Windows 8 and RT, as well as the Xbox LIVE integration.

To keep the price down, it might come without Microsoft Office.

There's even a rumour that Surface Plus could include something that's not a tablet at all: a 13.6" touchscreen Ultrabook. That would fit in with making Microsoft a 'devices and services' company, as well as showing the OEMs how to make quality versions of the full range of modern PC form factors that aren't weighed down by crapware, all with the same custom high-resolution, glare-free screen from the Surface.

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//PART 2