If Apple Could Do It From The Start, Why Won’t The Microsoft Surface Launch With 3G?

If Apple Could Do It From The Start, Why Won’t The Microsoft Surface Launch With 3G?

For all the buzz about the Microsoft Surface, we don’t know really know the most important things about it yet. We don’t know when it’ll be released. We don’t know how much it’ll cost. As nice as the Surface looks, Microsoft didn’t even say if it would come with 3G, let alone with LTE. And according to Bloomberg, the reason they didn’t announce it is because the Surface won’t: it’s WiFi-only.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Microsoft will launch the Surface as a WiFi-only device. No 3G. No LTE. They may come later, but not at launch.

On one hand, look, WiFi-only iPads still account for most of the market. And the Microsoft Surface does have a USB connector, so if you want to have some enormous stupid 3G dongle sticking out of your Surface, hey, no problem, more power to you.

But there are a couple reasons this arches my eyebrow. First of all, amongst the tech journalists so psyched about the Surface, what they are really excited about is the prospect of uniting two separate gadgets into one: their iPad and MacBook Air. They want to cover tech conferences and keynotes from this thing, and without 3G/LTE as even an option, that possibility is diminished.

Second, not launching with 3G/LTE implies to me that Microsoft is having a hard time figuring out how to sell this thing as cheaply as Apple, keep battery life up and maintain the Surface’s extreme thinness. And Microsoft has to undercut Apple on price with the Surface in order to make it a success, while matching or exceeding Apple in features and design.

The Surface won’t be D.O.A., that’s for sure. But some of these details are starting to look like trouble for Microsoft. And every day Redmond waits to release the Surface, the closer the next iPad comes to making it look last-gen.

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  • Aj Tk427

    You could always just tether with your phone.

  • Aaron

    Microsoft seriously needs to weigh whether or not they want to succeed in this product space or piss off their vendors. Does Microsoft want to become Apple? Piss off your vendors and price the Surface competitively. If not, keep your vendors happy and price the Surface at the high-end of the market. That will make it too expensive to compete with the iPad. They lose either way.

  • Dinslakener

    It has all these fancy connectors, so you can plug in a surfstick. That may look stupid, but so is buying a device wuthout 3g/4g…

  • RadTech5000

    It is good to have healthy competition in the industry, I actually had wondered why Apple never put out a keyboard smart cover like this sooner looks cool.

  • ConstableOdo

    Microsoft is so desperate to rush a product to market, they probably need to cut all the corners they can to save time and expense. I do know one thing and that is they’re going to really upset their partners.

  • DestructoTex

    “They want to cover tech conferences and keynotes from this thing, and without 3G/LTE as even an option, that possibility is diminished.”

    There’s no way they could do that with such a flexible keyboard and a kickstand. Imagine sitting in a keynote with this thing on your lap – no way to prop it up and no good way to type. Worthless unless you’re sitting at a desk or a table.

  • vanmacguy

    “They want to cover tech conferences and keynotes from this thing, and without 3G/LTE as even an option, that possibility is diminished.”

    There’s no way they could do that with such a flexible keyboard and a kickstand. Imagine sitting in a keynote with this thing on your lap – no way to prop it up and no good way to type. Worthless unless you’re sitting at a desk or a table.

    I agree completely. Microsoft has positioned this thing as a ‘do everything’ device and as such it misses the mark on so many levels.

    I might be wrong, but having seen the launch event and read a lot about this thing all week, I don’t think it has an onscreen keyboard. So you *have* to use the keyboard that comes with it (which no journalist was allowed to touch on the launch day – hmm?) and given that the keyboard is (apparently) flimsy, you can’t do that on your lap and the kickstand prevents lap use as well.

    What they’ve launched is an ultra book with a detachable screen. That’s it. as a tablet without a keyboard, it’s useless and as an ultra book with a keyboard attached, without a solid surface beneath it, it’s also useless.

    Two swings, no hits.

    Oh and pi$$ing off their partners, who have to pay Microsoft $85 for each copy of Windows 8 – when Microsoft puts it on their own tablets for free – means that the partners are in direct competition with Microsoft, and they’re trying to sell a Microsoft product?

    Make that three swings, no hits. And you know what that means?

  • landoncube

    April 2010: Apple releases first generation iPad, WiFi only. May 2010, 3G and WiFi model released. Surface is vaporware and this article is vaporreporting.

  • howie_isaacks

    This is typical Microsoft vaporware. They announce this product, and they don’t even tell us when it’s going to be released, and don’t bother to talk about 3G. What the hell is Ballmer thinking? In the end, I don’t really give a damn. It will be fun to watch this product flop upon launch (when ever that is), and then watch it be trounced by Apple’s next generation iPad next year. Apple doesn’t announce a prouduct without a ship date, with the exception of OS X. Therefore, we always know when we will be able to buy them.

  • CALL_151

    Is it really vaporware, or is it “threatware”? Is Microsoft really serious about entering the tablet market as a high volume hardware manufacturer and distributor, or are they using this as a ploy to scare established hardware manufacturers away from Android and toward Win 8? Is Ballmer capable of orchestrating serious competition in this space, or merely clever enough to implement a new strategy designed to sell their next OS, the only business they really understand? To paraphrase Kramer, am I insane, or am I so sane that I just blew your mind?

  • Seraphiel

    If it is going to be a hit or not. One thing is clear… it isn’t thought through and looks like it is designed in a rush without usability testing. If it doesn’t have an on screen keyboard then the thing is useless as a laptop. It will not sit nice on your lap, period. And if it sits stable on your lap you have the keyboard so close to your body that you have a hard time typing or can’t type at all because your enormous fat belly is hanging over the keyboard. It’s not a revolutionary product. It’s the step in the evolution that apple skipped while designing the iPad. I’m almost certain that early in the design process of the iPad, Apple came with such a design, then tested it and found it hard to use in certain situations. They thought… we need to get rid of this always in the way keyboard and find a way to put it on the screen.

  • arvindmartin

    Very true!!

  • howie_isaacks

    Is it really vaporware, or is it “threatware”? Is Microsoft really serious about entering the tablet market as a high volume hardware manufacturer and distributor, or are they using this as a ploy to scare established hardware manufacturers away from Android and toward Win 8? Is Ballmer capable of orchestrating serious competition in this space, or merely clever enough to implement a new strategy designed to sell their next OS, the only business they really understand? To paraphrase Kramer, am I insane, or am I so sane that I just blew your mind?

    You make a great point. Either way, it’s a very deceptive way to sell a product. It just proves that Microsoft is more interested in making money than they are about producing quality products. They’re successful as a result of making “just good enough” products while Apple is successful because of quality and attention to detail. In the long run, Apple has shown that it’s possible to focus on quality and details and still be profitable.

  • Harvey Lubin

    The Surface isn’t one product running one operating system. It is two different products running two different operating systems.

    One product is called “Surface for Windows RT”. It is the thinner and lighter one using an ARM processor (similar to the iPad), and it runs an operating system called Windows RT which is just the Metro side of Windows 8.

    Unfortunately Windows RT can’t run Windows applications. Can you imagine someone buying it, taking it home, and then finding out that they can’t run their Windows applications on it?

    “But it’s called Surface for Windows, and it’s made by Microsoft.”

    The “Surface for Windows RT” tablet can only run Metro apps, of which there are currently none. And the outlook for future Metro apps is uncertain, at best. There is not much reason for developers to invest time and money creating apps for an untried platform, when they know that they are making lots of money selling their apps to hundreds of millions of users of the established platforms.

    So the “Surface for Windows RT” tablet will be as expensive as an iPad, it won’t run Windows applications, and the future availability of apps that can run on it is a big question mark.

    Not much of an incentive for people to buy this tablet.

    The other product is called “Surface for Windows 8 Pro”. This tablet has an Intel i5 processor, and it CAN run Windows applications. But it is much thicker, heavier, and will have much shorter battery life than the Windows RT tablet. Running those Windows applications will require one of those thin, floppy keyboard/trackpad covers, which will add more thickness, weight, and cost to the tablet.

    The “Surface for Windows 8 Pro” has a 10″ screen, and it will be priced similar to “Ultrabooks” like the MacBook Air. But Ultrabooks have 13″ to 14″ displays, full-sized keyboards with real keys, a real trackpad, more powerful processors, more RAM and storage, all for a similar price to the “Surface for Windows 8 Pro”.

    Oh and one more thing, unlike the Ultrabooks the “Surface for Windows 8 Pro” is a laptop that you can’t use on your lap. Given the choice, most people would opt for the Ultrabook.

    Again, not much of an incentive for people to buy this tablet either.

  • bradleykronson

    @vanmacguy you just showed what a clueless idiot you are – windows 8 ships with an on-screen keyboard – perhaps you should bother to do some reading before you spout nonsense…

  • LegacyRyan

    The first iPad was wifi only for a while. 3G came more than a month after initial release.

  • easydone101
    “They want to cover tech conferences and keynotes from this thing, and without 3G/LTE as even an option, that possibility is diminished.”

    There’s no way they could do that with such a flexible keyboard and a kickstand. Imagine sitting in a keynote with this thing on your lap – no way to prop it up and no good way to type. Worthless unless you’re sitting at a desk or a table.

    I agree completely. Microsoft has positioned this thing as a ‘do everything’ device and as such it misses the mark on so many levels.

    I might be wrong, but having seen the launch event and read a lot about this thing all week, I don’t think it has an onscreen keyboard. So you *have* to use the keyboard that comes with it (which no journalist was allowed to touch on the launch day – hmm?) and given that the keyboard is (apparently) flimsy, you can’t do that on your lap and the kickstand prevents lap use as well.

    What they’ve launched is an ultra book with a detachable screen. That’s it. as a tablet without a keyboard, it’s useless and as an ultra book with a keyboard attached, without a solid surface beneath it, it’s also useless.

    Two swings, no hits.

    Oh and pi$$ing off their partners, who have to pay Microsoft $85 for each copy of Windows 8 – when Microsoft puts it on their own tablets for free – means that the partners are in direct competition with Microsoft, and they’re trying to sell a Microsoft product?

    Make that three swings, no hits. And you know what that means?

    No it actually does have an onscreen keyboard, Microsoft just decided not to showcase it at this event so that it could show of its Touch/Type cover instead.

  • Spock1234

    The first iPad was wifi only for a while. 3G came more than a month after initial release.

    But, Apple announced both models at the same time, and gave real shipping dates for both. Microsoft did neither. Based on Microsoft’s track record it is very reasonable to assume that if they fail to mention a critical feature, it is because their product does not have it.

    If Microsoft wasn’t so incompetent, they would have provided this critical information during the announcement and made all these discussions moot. A product announcement without availability, pricing or a true hands-on experience for the press … give me a freaking break!

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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