Scratching the Surface: what to expect from Microsoft’s launch event

  • AFP
  • Updated: May 20, 2014 10:18 IST

All eyes in the tech community will be on New York and specifically Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella when he takes to the stage in the city to announce a new product, widely tipped to be a smaller Surface tablet. However, new reports suggest that something much bigger could also be coming.

Invitations for the event, which Microsoft is calling a "small gathering," carry the Surface branding. It's no secret that the company has been developing a smaller 8-inch version of its tablet and over recent months some of the performance and specifications of the device, "the Surface Mini," have leaked, such as its chipset and that rather than just a stylus, it will have a proper digitizing pen.

However, details are now starting to emerge of a new Surface ‘Pro' tablet that could boast a 12-inch+ display. According to a number of sources, including the usually reliable Windows Phone Central, it will be another new Surface tablet, rather than a replacement, and will be offered with a choice of five different configurations from an Intel i3 chip, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB hard disk (expected to cost around $800) up to a whopping i7 processor with 8GB of RAM in tow and a 512GB hard disk that will cost $1,949.

That's serious money, but if the specifications are correct, it's a serious machine and one that could give most ultrabooks and notebooks a run for their money.

Unlike what may or may not be revealed on Tuesday, it's no secret that Microsoft is going to have to do something big in order to really assert itself in the tablet market.

The latest figures from ABI Research, published on Friday, show that the category is becoming a two-horse race. Consumers are going for either an iPad or a Samsung tablet. Of the 41.3 million tablets shipped over the first three months of 2014, 71% were built by one of the two companies.

The iPad currently has a 39.6% share of the tablet market as of the end of Q1 2014. Tablets running Android -- therefore everything from the Asus-built Google Nexus 7 through to Samsung's ever expanding range of slates of all sizes, shapes and descriptions -- make up 56.3% of the market, and tablets running either Windows 8 or Windows RT account for just 4.1%.

Therefore the company is going to really have to dazzle consumers and businesses alike if it wants a share of the tablet business.

One potential piece of good news in the figures is that tablets are becoming more mobile: for the first time since 2011, ABI saw an increase in shipments for devices with an integrated 3G or 4G/LTE modem (ABI claims 22% of tablets shipped supported mobile internet access) and this is an area where Microsoft has been focusing.
Microsoft's launch event gets underway at 10am ET on Tuesday, May 20. So not long to wait to find out which rumors are true.

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