Microsoft’s Surface burst on to the scene Monday, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the tablet. Here are five, basic and very practical things that we just don’t know about the tablet yet.
Price: For one, we don’t know the all-important question of how much this tablet will cost. With two versions of the tablet unveiled, it seems like Microsoft could be going after the laptop replacement market and the high-end of the tablet market. The company wouldn’t give pricing details, saying only that it “is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC.”
Release date: Also unclear? When, exactly, you’ll be able to be get your hands on this device. Windows 8/RT is expected in the fall, and we’re definitely not going to see these devices before the operating system itself launches. That’s a long time to keep up the buzz, Microsoft.
Battery life: If Microsoft is going to compete — truly compete — with the iPad or with ultrabooks, then it’s going to have to show it can last just as long as those other devices. The iPad boasts 10 hours of battery life, while many ultrabooks have around 7 or more.
Connectivity: Microsoft boasted good WiFi connection during the presentation, but remained mum on whether the Surface tablets will work over cellular networks. That’s been a main selling point for Apple’s iPad — especially now that it runs on American 4G networks — and will be a key factor for enterprise customers who need to be able to use their tablets on the road.
User interface: What will these tablets actually be like to, you know, use? Sure, they’ll have Office and Netflix and, one hopes, a full array of other programs to play around with. But how will it actually feel to use the tablet? Microsoft didn’t give reports who attended its event any real hands-on time, and there weren’t demos on e-mail or Office in the speech itself. If Microsoft really wants to sell this as a creation, not consumption, device, it will have to prove that it can make a user interface that’s easy, quick and with a shallow learning curve. A tall order, indeed.