Microsoft late Monday added a smaller sibling to its Surface line of tablets – the Surface Go. The 10-inch tablet is a little larger than the standard iPad, but is capable of running a full version of Windows.
The company has talked up how the smaller tablet will appeal to two particular demographics: students and women. When revealing the tablet at a press briefing earlier this month, Microsoft product marketing manager Natalia Urbanowicz pulled the Surface Go out of a crossbody clutch from Knomo — showing how easy it would be for a busy mom to carry around a full laptop without lugging around a huge bag.
The company has also said how well suited the tablet is to classrooms, thanks to its smaller size and lower price. The Go sports a 10-inch screen and starts at $400, which is far lower than the $700 base price of the larger 12.3-inch Surface Pro.
The messaging around the Go reinforces Microsoft’s overall push to showcase Surface devices as ones that go from work to play and back again – to act as laptop, sketchbook and textbook reader in one. Microsoft’s chief product officer, Panos Panay, mentioned in a blog post that it’s been the “perfect device” for his young girls. “Since my two youngest daughters have started using Surface Go, I see them watching movies, reading and drawing on it every day,” he said.
True to Microsoft’s roots, the company said the lightweight Go would also suit the needs of businesses, which have been early adopters of Microsoft hardware, including the Surface line and its HoloLens augmented reality glasses prototype. The Go can plug into a monitor for a more traditional desktop experience.
The Go is coming at a time when tablets in general have become a difficult category for tech companies to crack, disappointing the high expectations of analysts who thought they might replace computers completely when the first iPad was introduced in 2010. The overall tablet market has been shrinking for the past year, though one overall bright spot has been the “detachables” area – which includes the Microsoft Surface and iPad Pro.
The Surface line hasn’t been a major seller for Microsoft, as compared with tablet sales from Apple, Samsung or Amazon. It’s even had a few flops – including its first attempt at a more mobile Surface tablet, which ran a mobile version of Windows called Windows RT. But the company has long said the Surface line’s main reason for being isn’t sales volume but rather as a way to show off what Windows can do when Microsoft designs the hardware.
Getting such a small device the power to run a full version of Windows took some fine tuning, said Pete Kyriacou, Microsoft’s program manager for the Surface. (The Surface Go for consumers will run Windows Home S, a streamlined version of the operating system that only runs apps from the Windows store – though it is possible to switch to the standard version of the operating system.) Kyriacou said the company has collaborated closely with chip manufacturers to optimize the Surface Go’s performance, The Surface Go uses a lower-end processor, the Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y, though Microsoft promised it would be up to the task of powering everyday tasks, as well as some games such as the education version of Minecraft.
The smaller size has also forced a bit of compromise on battery life. The Surface Go has an “all-day” nine-hour battery life, as opposed to the Surface Pro’s promised 13.5 hours.
All the Surface Go’s accessories are sold separately including a keyboard cover that’s been redesigned for the smaller size, as well as a stylus and a new four-inch mobile mouse.