Although the critical reception to the Microsoft Surface tablet has been mixed, no one can deny that the company's new operating system and hardware make a valiant attempt at competing in an already crowded tablet market. But despite the initial excitement, some believe that the Surface will have to change, quickly, in order to become relevant. According to a new report, such a change may be on the way.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Microsoft is preparing to release its own 7-inch tablet to compete with the likes of the iPad mini and the Nexus 7. Based on an inside source, Microsoft had no plans to introduce a 7-incher anytime soon, but after seeing the reception the iPad mini and the Nexus 7 received, the company quickly switched gears.
Unfortunately, simply changing gears may not be enough. I had the opportunity to put the device through its paces last month and the experience, while very interesting, mostly left me with questions about the device's viability. As a tablet, both versions of the current Surface (RT and Pro) are just too heavy to hold with one hand for any length of time (and I have larger-than-average hands). Also, the kickstand may work for a table set-up, but if you want to keep it on your lap, or in bed, it's a bit unwieldy given its 16:9 aspect ratio.
On the operating system level, Windows 8/RT is a bit confusing as you switch between the Metro UI and the desktop mode. That option is amazingly useful, but in the long run, it gives the entire environment a bit of an identity crisis. Overall, the Surface is an attractive attempt, but still doesn't deliver enough to allow one to ignore the benefits of the iPad or competing Android tablets.
However, if Microsoft can deliver the Surface experience in a lighter, thinner form factor (read: you can comfortably hold it with one hand for an hour), and at a decent price point, there's actually a good chance that such a device could be the key to getting more longtime Windows users to adopt the device as their primary mobile computing solution.