On the other hand, this decision is somewhat understandable. Carriers would want some type of control over the device itself. Microsoft, having learned a lesson from the update travesties surrounding the Windows Phone platform, likely thinks it may be best to cut the carriers out of the equation entirely.
Analysis: 5 Unanswered Questions About the Microsoft Surface Tablet
2. That Screen Sounds Really Small. The big push of a Windows tablet with a keyboard is that you can tell users, "Yes, you can use Outlook. Yes, you can use Excel." If Outlook is nothing but scroll bars on a 10" screen, though, this stance may have to be rethought. If you've ever tried to use Remote Desktop Protocol sessions on an iPad, you know what I mean.
3. Storage Options Are Limited. With the highest available storage specification for either device at 64 GB, one has to wonder if that's enough for a productive PC? How much will Windows and Office take out of that 64 GB? Moreover, how much usable space will the 32 GB version have? It's unclear if that's a wise specification decision on the part of the software giant.
4. Will Things Always Be This Good? This is a softer point but, in my view, a really important one. That Microsoft would make the Surface devices on its own is a gut punch for OEM hardware makers. Microsoft's also only selling this online or through its retail stores.
Monday's unveiling raises a lot of questions.
- Is it possible that this is a reference design?
- Is it credible that Microsoft may be poking its OEM partners and, once they wince and moan enough, Redmond will license the Surface design to them?
- Is this primarily a wake-up call? Is that why availability and other details are so murky right now?
- If that transition happens, will OEMs then be permitted to remove cost from the model by using cheaper components, less engineering prowess and, in general, de-classing the device to get the price down?
The outlook here is a little cloudy and somewhat concerning.
5. This Only Solves Part of the Windows RT Problem. In contrast with the Surface Pro, the ARM-based Surface won't run your old applications, won't join a domain, won't participate in Group Policy and won't have any apps at first (with slow potential for growth in that regard too). Microsoft Surface will require third-party software to manage, including new software from network connectivity vendors to create VPNs, and it probably will be just as expensive as an iPad.
This begs the question: Who will choose a Microsoft Surface over an iPad? The keyboard is not the tipping point for this.
Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a consulting firm based out of Charlotte. He's also an editor with Apress Media LLC. Reach him via email and on Twitter. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.
Read more about tablet pcs in CIO's Tablet PCs Drilldown.