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Surface Pro Sellout!

I took my lumps from some of you over the weekend in response to Friday's prediction that the first edition of the Surface Pro, released over the weekend, would be a bust.

Based on reviews I read from respected critics such as David Pogue, the personal technology columnist for The New York Times, and All About Microsoft blogger and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley (granted she's not a technical review per se), among others, the consensus was it was a nice machine that lacked one critical component: the ability to run all day. Pogue only got three and a half hours out of his review unit. Microsoft rates the device as having at least 5 hours of battery life..

As far as I was concerned, that was a deal breaker. If I'm going to shell out more than a thousand dollars for a portable machine, I want it to work all day. In response, Dan in Iowa said,"I believe what you're saying is you've never owned a laptop, and you've never seen the Surface Pro. Hmmm... I guess I'll trust your judgement [sic] then?"

Actually I have owned an Asus netbook that has averaged 14 hours a day (and it still does run all day) for three years. I chose it over the iPad, which had just debuted at the time, to replace a Windows XP-based Fujitsu Lifebook. The Lifebook had served me well since 2004, providing 8 hours of battery life. Unfortunately it wasn't upgradeable to Windows 7. The three-pound netbook cost less than an iPad and was sufficient for work in the field. Six years earlier, I had invested nearly $2,000 for the three-pound Fujitsu Lifebook for its long battery life.

So when it comes to power, I'm biased. Maybe spoiled but that's what I need if I'm using it out of the office all day. That said, I'm not a "Microsoft hater," as two respondents concluded. It is my responsibility to advocate for IT pros to ensure they're getting the most from Microsoft and its third-party ecosystem and believe people should use technology that best suits their needs at a price within their budgets.

As promised, I went to a nearby Microsoft retail store yesterday to see the Surface Pro for myself (I would have gone Saturday but a blizzard pre-empted my plans). I spent an hour with it and liked what I saw. It was notably thicker than the Surface RT. That's because it has an Intel i5 processor and needs a fan to keep it cool. That also explains the limitation in battery life.

When I predicted the inaugural Surface Pro would be a flop, it was from the point of view that most business professionals will wait for the next version, which presumably will come out later this year with Intel's next generation Haswell processor. Based on some reports, that suggests the next Surface Pro will get at least double the battery life. Knowing that, why wouldn't one wait? I will note that if Haswell doesn't deliver, as some reports are now suggesting, that would be a bad news.

There are rumors that Microsoft may be planning to offer a docking station or extra battery to address the power issue. That would be a good thing but at what price?

Personally, I'm going to wait for the next release of the Surface Pro and compare it with what comes out from Microsoft's OEM partners. Or perhaps I'll sacrifice power and go with an Intel Atom-based device that runs Windows 8 Pro all day long.

Time will tell if I overstated my case that the first edition of the Surface Pro will be a flop. Reports over the weekend that the 128 GB units were sold out on the Microsoft Web site and in stores suggest otherwise. No one seems to want the 64 GB version since it's only $100 cheaper and its capacity is paltry.

At the Microsoft retail store, one sales rep told me that they're flying off the shelves. "My friend works at the Best Buy in Commack [NY] and there were lines outside the store and they sold out," the rep told me. I later went to a Best Buy next door in Huntington, NY and found a display unit past the more prominently showcased iPads. It was one with a 64 GB drive. No one was looking at them but the Best Buy sales rep said his store only received three units, two of which had 128 GB drives and sold out right away.

Back at the Microsoft retail store, I asked a customer there with his young daughter looking at the Surface Pro what he thought of it. "Looks pretty good," he said. "You can do a lot more with it than the iPad, which doesn't have Word or Excel." While that latter point may be a temporary argument (that remains to be seen), I still agree.

Meanwhile, Microsoft must now content with some angry customers on its hands. According to comments underneath Microsoft Corporate VP and Surface Pro team engineering lead Panos Panay's blog post Friday announcing its release, quite a few customers are livid about the unavailability of 128 GB units after the company already missed its January target for releasing the devices.

It's not clear whether Microsoft purposely limited supply in order to create demand or if the company simply missed its delivery targets. Either way, the Surface Pro got more buzz than I had expected.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/11/2013 at 1:15 PM


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