Posts Tagged ‘Surface’

On the outside, the Surface 2 may look like its predecessor, the Surface RT. It’s ever-so-slightly thinner and lighter than the original, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re identical. Far from it.

The Surface 2 has a new two-position kickstand, the microSD card slot has been moved down slightly, and there are no longer screws on the back of the case.

These subtle, external differences, however, pale when compared with the massive internal hardware and design changes Microsoft made on the new tablet

Unfortunately, when making all these hardware upgrades, Microsoft also completely reworked the tablet’s internal design, and in doing so made the Surface 2 much more difficult to crack open and repair than its predecessor.

Glued-on front panel, plastic body make opening difficult: Opening last year’s Surface RT began with removing the tablet’s back cover. Not so for the Surface 2. As with the Apple iPad, cracking open this tablet requires heating the edges of the front panel to loosen the adhesive that holds it to the tablet’s body. While heating the panel, you’ll need to gently pry it away from the body with thin tools. Unlike the iPad, however, the Surface has some internal components and external trim pieces that are made from plastic, which can warp if overheated.

Redesigned interior: The internal hardware is mounted to the Surface 2’s body, with the front panel and display being a single, removable unit. The Surface RT’s hardware on the other hand was actually mounted to the front panel and display assembly, which also served as the tablet’s body. There’s also a new plastic bezel that runs around the tablet’s outer edge and serves as the mounting surface for the front panel/display assembly. The Surface 2 is built more like the Surface Pro than the Surface RT, which makes the tablet more difficult to open and repair.

Filled with hardware upgrades: Along with the radically changing the tablet’s internal design, Microsoft also gave the Surface 2 lots of hardware upgrades. The Surface 2 has two microphones (compared with the Surface RT’s one), stereo speakers, a USB 3.0 port, better front-facing (3.5-megapixel) and rear-facing (5.0-megapixel) cameras, a new 1,920×1,080-pixel-resolution display, and a faster 1.7GHz Tegra 4 processor.

Difficult, time-consuming to open repair
The Surface 2 is definitely an improvement over last year’s model when it comes to hardware specifications and performance. Kudos to Microsoft for that.

But it has also officially become the most difficult-to-crack-open tablet I’ve ever worked on. The front-panel adhesive is incredibly hard to work around, there are more than 60 screws inside the case (of all different sizes), and most of the motherboard connectors are extremely fragile and easily broken. I can only hope Microsoft will make some design changes for next year’s model. Unfortunately, I doubt it will.

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Delta Air Lines has decided to jump on Microsoft’s Surface bandwagon.

Delta will deploy the Surface 2 to 11,000 pilots by the end of 2014, the airline and Microsoft announced Monday. The airline will equip Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 pilots with the Surface 2 later this year, and will roll it out to all other cockpits by the end of 2014.

Rather than opt for the Surface 2 Pro, Delta has decided to invest in the Windows RT-based Surface 2. The slates will run on Windows RT 8.1 and come with apps the pilots need to complete their jobs, including carts, reference documents, and checklists, Microsoft said. Delta expects to save $13 million per year in fuel and other costs by using the Surface 2.

For Microsoft, the adoption of the Surface 2, in large numbers, for use by pilots is surely a significant customer win. For Delta, the move is a chance to applaud some expected cost savings — the airline says use of the tablets will allow it to cut 7.5 million sheets of paper per year and reduce fuel consumption by 1.2 million gallons annually.Before Delta can use the Surface 2 for all phases of the flight process, the company needs to get Federal Aviation Administration approval. According to Microsoft, Delta expects to receive full approval from the FAA to use the Surface 2 on all devices and flight phases sometime next year.

 

Considering that Steve Ballmer has been chief executive of Microsoft for more than a decade, it might sound strange to say this. But the sweeping reorganization announced Wednesday made it clear that Microsoft is now his company.

But in the various memos and news releases, the company emphasized that while Windows remains crucial to its future, it’s no longer the way Microsoft wants to define itself. The company is now about “devices and services,” Ballmer said in a memo.

“Ballmer has definitely placed his stamp on Microsoft, meaning the ‘Gates era’ has come to an end,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. “He is fundamentally shifting the company from an operating system company to services and devices company. In a world where operating systems are free, as in the case of Android, iOS and Linux, Windows is a lot less important.”

To accelerate that shift, Microsoft is collapsing the number of divisions from eight to four. Ballmer wants to promote more collaboration at a company often seen as internally fractious.

It’s a radical push to remake the company. But there’s no arguing that the reorganization is the capstone to one of the most remarkable years of transformation we’ve seen at a technology giant.

Under Ballmer, Microsoft has engaged in a historic upheaval of nearly every part of its massive product line.

Much of that has been documented in bits and pieces. The biggest news was the redesign that came with Windows 8. But there’s also the launch of Outlook.com, the new Windows Phones, the new Xbox One coming later this year, a new cloud-based version of Office.com. And the list goes on.

And, of course, there’s been the push to build its own tablet, the Surface. In the announcement, Ballmer promised to continue working with third parties as it has traditionally done, but also to keep looking for ways to build more of its own devices.

Many of these moves have come in for heavy criticism. Sales of the Surface have not been stellar. Windows 8 has failed to stem a steep decline in PC sales.

But from the point of view of the new Microsoft, all this matters less than you think. With the new guiding philosophy, Windows is not the sole benchmark by which to measure its success or failures. Rather, the company wants to be given credit for the enormous breadth of things it does for both consumers and enterprise, and how well all of those things work together.

Indeed, while some of the consumer offerings have failed to catch fire so far, the enterprise side of Microsoft has been growing quite nicely in recent months.

So much so, that investors seem, at least for the moment, to be optimistic that this new, post-Windows Microsoft, has a fighting chance. The stock in mid-day trading Wednesday was up $0.67 or 1.93% to $35.37. The stock has been on a decent run this year, up more than 24% and coming close to the $36 per share mark it last reached in 2007.

Of course, for all the major surgery at Microsoft, it remains to be seen whether this will translate into a company that can grow at the pace investors want over the long term. Or whether it can regain any sense of leadership in the fast-moving worlds of mobile and cloud technologies, where so far the company has been outflanked by rivals such as Apple and Google.

Ballmer’s legacy is now firmly tied to these remarkable changes. Whether he’s remembered as a transformative corporate visionary or a bumbling, misguided chief executive will depend more on what happens in his second decade running the company than his first.