6 Microsoft Surface 2 launch surprises

Microsoft Surface 2 New Zealand launch

Microsoft NZ marketing director Frazer Scott launching the Surface 2

Microsoft flagged most of the features in the new Surface 2 range well in advance, but there were still a few surprises when the wraps came off at last night’s official New Zealand launch in Auckland.

Wide price range: You can pay anywhere from $500 to more than five times as much for a Microsoft Surface device. That’s a huge price range. The prices are aggressive: $650 buys a 32GB Surface 2, bumping storage to 64GB pushes the price to $800. Surface 2 Pro prices start at $1300 for a model with 64GB and a stylus. If you’ve deep pockets and need lots of storage a 512GB model will set you back $2600.

You buy more than hardware: Surface RT and Surface 2 come with the RT version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft also offers free Skype calling to landlines worldwide for one year and 200GB of SkyDrive storage for two years.

Skype Wi-Fi: The first Microsoft Surface 2 models don’t have 3G or 4G mobile data as an option, although Microsoft says there will be models next year. For now mobile data needs are met by Skype Wi-Fi, a worldwide network of Wi-Fi hotspots which is free to Surface users for one year. The company says there are two million hotspots worldwide. New Zealand is especially well catered for because the local partner is our very own Tomizone.

Surface RT stays: Microsoft has repositioned the original Surface RT tablet as the anchor model in its range. When the Surface RT debuted a year ago its price matched Apple’s cheapest iPad model. From today it sells in New Zealand at $500. While that may be more expensive than tablets with smaller screens and Android devices from secondary brands, you get a lot for the money. And remember this includes a version of Microsoft Office – it’s not that long since a full version of the software suite cost more than $1000.

Microsoft Surface 2 Pro isn’t a tablet: It may look like a tablet, small like a tablet and taste like a tablet. If you like it can act like a tablet. But make no mistake, the Surface 2 Pro competes directly with laptops and Ultrabooks. It’s a classy alternative with a full Intel i5 processor and a docking station that can drive up to four monitors at once. Microsoft says it will run every Windows application you throw at it.

Specification upgrade: It’s no surprise that Microsoft boosted the specification of the new Surface models. We all knew that was going to happen. On the other hand, given that the original models were launched just one year ago, the scale of the upgrades is significant. The newer devices are lighter, thinner and faster than before. They now have HD displays, higher resolution cameras and a USB 3 port. Best of all, the battery life on some models in now more than double. Microsoft says you can watch video for up to ten hours on a single charge.

[digitl 2013]

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Mobile device sales fall, tablets weakest

Our love for mobile devices could be cooling according to IDC Research. The company says regional sales figures for mobile devices have now declined for two consecutive quarters.

In the second quarter of 2013 mobile phone sales growth was down five percent across Australia and New Zealand. Notebook sales were down five percent and tablets registered a huge 20 percent drop.

It’s not all bad, New Zealand’s PC sector climbed 12 percent.

Big mobile device plans threatened

The news comes as software giants Google and Microsoft plan to reinvent themselves as device companies. Microsoft has already struggled to gain acceptance for its Surface RT tablets.

Yesterday the company launched new Surface models in New York. Senior IDC analyst Amy Cheah said the market will be increasingly challenging for them.

“While it is not surprising that the notebook market recorded another quarter of market contraction, the consecutive tightening of tablet and mobile phones market is a first for ANZ,” Cheah says.

“This does not necessarily mean these markets have hit saturation point, but it may be an early indication of device fatigue and commoditisation as these newer markets mature.”

Apple missing in action

IDC numbers says a total of 4.8 million units, including desktops and mobile devices, were shipped in the second quarter of 2013.

It may turn out that it isn’t a case of customers not being interested in mobile gadgets, merely that they are not interested in the current crop of me too devices and the oddball combinations of smartphones, tablets and laptops that hit the market in recent months.

Remember there were have been no new Apple iPad devices in a year to freshen the market. And before anyone gets too gloomy about the state of gadget sales, there’s news that Apple sold a higher than expected nine million iPhone 5S and 5C models in the three days after the launch.