Microsoft

TechEd 2013: A tale of two Surfaces and a fire sale

Microsoft's fire sale on Surface tablets at TechEd 2013 in New Orleans prompted John Joyner to purchase both the Pro and RT versions.

Microsoft came up with a way to sell a lot of Surface tablets: deeply discount the devices and sell them to attendees at TechEd North America 2013 in New Orleans. Microsoft's premium tablet computers running their flagship operating system Windows 8 have not exploded in sales since their introduction last year. However, the quality of the Surface hardware, the touch-friendly ‘live tiles' that Windows 8 shares with Windows 8 Phone, and some truly unique Surface features make an attractive package that most people like once they try it.

A lot more IT professionals in the world are getting their hands on Surface tablets this week at TechEd. Microsoft made a surprise announcement the week before TechEd that each attendee could purchase two (2) Surface tablets, one (1) each of the "Pro" and "RT" types. The price of the Pro 128 is $399 and the RT is $99 for attendees (and includes a free Touch Cover that previously cost $120 and can be used with the Pro or the RT). Figure A is a photo of the line of attendees to purchase Surfaces.

Figure A

Queues at Microsoft TechEd North America 2013 to purchase Surface tablets and accessories.

Fire sale moves gear

The special offer is only available during the event, Sunday, June 2 - Thursday, June 6. Microsoft has assured attendees that there will be enough devices for everyone to get one of each. The offer was initially limited to customers and partners (including exhibitor attendees, sponsor attendees, faculty/staff and students), press, and non-Microsoft employee speakers and staff. Microsoft employees at TechEd were not eligible for the offer.

The Pro 128 retail price is about $1,000 and the RT retail price is about $500. Needless to say, many of the 15,000 or so TechEd attendees and other eligible staff seem to be getting both models-about $1,600 in hardware for just $500. Put another way, that's a top of the line Pro for 50% off, plus a free RT and Touch cover. A no brainer for most attendees with $500 to get both.

Since the attendees are IT professionals representing industries and regions all over the world, this "partial giveaway" of technology to such a large and influential group could have quite a beneficial effect on Surface and Microsoft. At least for the Surface Pro that is. There are limitations to the RT model, for example, it cannot run Microsoft Office Outlook. [Update: Just since the writing of this piece, Microsoft announced at the Computex show in Taiwan that Outlook 2013 RT will be coming to RT tablets later this year.] It will be interesting to see industry feedback as IT pros who never otherwise would have used Surface RT provide feedback and reviews in the community.

To give a personal example, I have held off on diving into Windows 8 since my aging Lenovo ThinkPads (running Windows 7) were still holding up, even though the screen on one was starting to black out, and the battery life of the other kept shrinking. I really like the "live tile" interface of my Windows 8 Phone and the natural addition of touch capability, but I haven't had the time and/or push to take the leap. This promotion of Surface at TechEd was for me, like most attendees, too good to pass up. I was in the line in Figure A and purchased my Surfaces and Surface accessories.

Better with two surfaces

Because of this surprising opportunity, I found myself doing something many TechEd attendees probably never expected to do: Have an out-of-the-box experience (OOBE) simultaneously with both a Surface Pro and a Surface RT. I can report that I was amazed at the consistency of the two products from a hardware and software viewpoint. The smallest details of the packaging and presentation were duplicated across the Pro and RT-the only real differences being that the Pro has a slightly larger power supply and the Pro also uniquely has a stylus. Figure B shows my Surfaces side by side after initial setup.

Figure B

Surface RT and Surface Pro side-by-side. RT (left) with Touch Cover, Pro (right) with Type Cover.

Complete kit for the Surface road warrior

A weakness I have always had (or is it a hobby?) is to collect all the options and accessories I might use when buying a device. (Would you like to see my collection of Zunes and Zune accessories?) While a Surface works great out of the box as a touch tablet, there are some sleek and handy accessories for Surface available from Microsoft. TechEd attendees could purchase Surface accessories at Microsoft employee prices.

At the TechEd Microsoft Store, I added to my Surface tablets (which included the Touch Cover with the RT) a Type Cover, a Microsoft Wedge keyboard, and a Microsoft Wedge mouse. Figure C shows what my Surface Road Warrior stack looks like: Two Surfaces with keyboard/covers and the Wedge keyboard and mouse.

Figure C

The Microsoft Surface Road Warrior kit: Pro and RT tablets, Wedge keyboard, Wedge mouse.

So many ways to Surface

There are a lot of ways to use your Surface: As tablets only with no cover, as well as with a keyboard: the low-profile Touch Cover, the more tactile Type Cover, or any Bluetooth keyboard connected to either the Pro or RT model. Sometimes there is no substitute for a mouse, and the Wedge mouse is so small yet so usable. It's a great follow on to Microsoft's inspired Arc and Arc Touch mice. Bluetooth pairing of the Wedge accessories to the Surface tablets was quick and easy.

To capture content during the keynote, I needed to compose the article while typing with my Surface on my lap while seated in the keynote audience. I wanted to minimize the "lap real estate" since I would be typing in the dark and in a crowded space. I elected to use the Wedge keyboard along with the Surface Pro tablet only.

Figure D shows a compact way to use a keyboard with your Surface in the most space-constrained situations. I wrote the whole keynote article yesterday on my Surface Pro, downloading photos from my Windows 8 Phone. I can share that the OOBE and the first day of real work with Surface was wholly successful.

Figure D

Using Surface with Wedge keyboard layout for space-constrained typing.

About

John Joyner, MCSE, CMSP, MVP Cloud and Datacenter Management, is senior architect at ClearPointe, a cloud provider of systems management services. He is co-author of the "System Center Operations Manager: Unleashed" book series from Sams Publishing, ...

31 comments
dcolbert
dcolbert

I'm writing all of these responses from my Surface RT, in IE 10 mobile, on my Surface RT. The Transformer TF101 was a dismal failure in attempting to do that, and the TF300 was only slightly better. The difference in doing this on a Surface RT vs. a Surface Pro though, is not notable. I've been off AC since this morning, my daughter watched a bunch of episodes of Futurama awhile ago, and I still have 21% battery left (enough for at least one movie, or a few hours more of online posting).

dcolbert
dcolbert

Ends up really liking it. Getting the Pro and RT at the same time, you'll come to realize the advantages of RT for specific roles sooner than later. I love my Yoga 13, but on this week long trip to Arizona, I only brought the Surface RT. It has all the horsepower I need for a quick trip.

levilan
levilan

These should have been the proper prices at launch of the Surface.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If those prices were offered to the retail masses with the goal of depleting all existing inventory, then the phrase might apply. The prices are probably appealing if you're looking for a device in this category. Since I'm not an eligible purchaser, the question of purchasing one is moot. I wonder how many of these will show up on eBay with a $50 markup.

-V-
-V-

If that's the case, I won't buy one. I'LL BUY TWO!!!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

At $399, a Microsoft Surface Pro is very enticing, don't you think?

Slayer_
Slayer_

I typed most of my troll posts while sitting on the john using my nexus 7.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

why would you purchase an RT in the first place? What are the road advantages over a Pro?

Slayer_
Slayer_

But now, I can't see what the surface can do better than my regular Android tablet. The only real extra feature I can see is some productivity tools haven't been ported yet. But I probably wouldn't use them on a tablet anyways.

adornoe
adornoe

or $499? Shouldn't the iPad also be selling for $99 or less? In fact, the iPad should be selling for less than $99, since it doesn't come with a version of Office included. The Surface Pro is a much better deal at $399 than any Mac computer at $399, since the Surface Pro comes equipped with Windows, which can run the millions of PC applications ever written for Windows. Heck, even I would purchase a Mac Air at $399, but only after purchasing a Surface pro too. ;)

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

the "fire sale" description was grabbed from ZDNet, as there was an article over there a couple of days ago about this deal. Unfortunately, the comments devolved into the typical fan wars, and no meaningful discussion came from it.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

not at TechEd anyway. You can buy 1 Surface Pro and 1 Surface RT though! If I were there in attendance, I'd be tempted to go for that deal, 1 of each...a Pro for myself and RT for my wife. But alas, I had to work and didn't get to attend. Guess I'll have to hang on to my netbook a while longer!

dcolbert
dcolbert

RT is a true ARM based tablet - so it enjoys all the significant benefits of all ARM based devices for mobile use. No fans, low noise, low heat dissipation, low energy consumption, and unmatched battery runtime and standby time. And it is less expensive than competitive Intel alternatives. ATOM processors are beginning to match the ARM processor advantages, but they're not quite in the same ballpark. The ATOM tablets deliver Intel code compatibility - so you can install windows "classic" applications - but they run poorly on Atom processors. I think the Atom processors still need supplemental cooling (fans) - so you get back into noise and another source of battery drain. (That fan doesn't spin for free). Oh... ARM processors are small and don't generate much heat - they need smaller heat-sinks - so ARM processors based tablets are generally going to be smaller, thinner, and lighter. Conversely you can make an ARM based tablet a little thicker, and give it a *bigger* battery... Those are the criteria these divide along. Do you need full power on the road, medium power on the road, or light power on the road? Or is longevity away from AC and ultra portability more important, as long as you can deliver a basic level of productivity? At the top, you would have something like a Surface Pro or Yoga 13. In the medium you would have one of the Atom based devices... At the bottom, the RT based devices. Tech bloggers are doing a *terrible* job of educating the public about those differences.

teejayuu
teejayuu

Depends on what you use it for. I have a Dell XPS 10 RT for home use and it's great for iPad type "I need to check my emails/internet/etc". At work I'm desk based so a tablet doesn't come into the equation. How ever we have some Road Warriors and I'm pushing for Window 8 Pro tablets as they are better suited to the Enterprise.

dcolbert
dcolbert

For 30 minutes - I could show you 15 things that Surface can do that Android simply *can't* do, and another 10 that RT can do better.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

just to remind myself how much more coherent the forums are on this side of the corporate divide. We complain about the seven-level limit here, but it's generous compare to the three allowed over there. And boy, talk about a collection of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, booger-eaters. But at least they have Loverock... :D

Slayer_
Slayer_

That's practically what they were designed for...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

although you can insert any F-modifier you choose :D

Slayer_
Slayer_

Way to much information. But the F?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

To me, you're making a case for an RT and a 'traditional' full-featured laptop / desktop / RDP host. Why bother with the Pro or Atom device? I agree that consumer education regarding these devices isn't being done well. I confess that part of my ignorance is due to a lack of detailed attention on my part; it's just not a class of devices I see much use for, either personally or in my workplace. Obviously, that doesn't mean there isn't value for others.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We're not going to pay for a second device when we've already purchased one that will do a super set of a tablet's capabilities. You've already got an $1800 laptop and dock, and now you want $400 or $500 more so you don't have to carry it? Why did we buy you a laptop in the first place, instead of a desktop at half the price?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Ok, I can see the difference then. But honestly I'd just use a laptop then.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Do you still contribute to TR?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

And yes, both ZDNet and TechRepublic are owned by CBS. http://www. zdnet .com/ (Without the spaces. It's very interesting that the intact ZDNet URL is blocked by its sister site!) 'Loverock' is a reference to Loverock Davidson, a ZDNet member locally famous for his slavish devotion (paid shill?) to all things Microsoft. wizard57m-cnet is active on ZDNet, so I assumed he'd get the reference. Both sites were originally run by CNet before being purchased by CBS. (Hence the suffix in wizard57m's handle.) Joining one automatically enrolls you on the other. While members have access to both sites, few are active on both of them. I recall TR being the older site; I know we date back to 1999, but I don't recall ZDNet's 'born on' date. Yes, it's pretty much an inside joke. There's lots of good authored and edited content over on ZDNet, but the forums have always struck me as more ... plebeian than over here, as you might guess from my description of their participants.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

And yes, both ZDNet and TechRepublic are owned by CBS. http://www.zdnet.com/ 'Loverock' is a reference to Loverock Davidson, a ZDNet member locally famous for his slavish devotion (paid shill?) to all things Microsoft. wizard57m-cnet is active on ZDNet, so I assumed he'd get the reference. Both sites were originally run by CNet before being purchased by CBS. (Hence the suffix in wizard57m's handle.) Joining one automatically enrolls you on the other. While members have access to both sites, few are active on both of them. I recall TR being the older site; I know we date back to 1999, but I don't recall ZDNet's 'born on' date. Yes, it's pretty much an inside joke. There's lots of good authored and edited content over on ZDNet, but the forums have always struck me as more ... plebian than over here.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Your TR membership also gets you into ZDNet.com, and possibly other CBS-owned tech sites I've forgotten about. http://www.zdnet.com/ 'Loverock' is a reference to ZDNet member 'Loverock Davidson'. To be polite, I'll just say that Loverock is known for his strong advocacy (re: slavish devotion (re:paid shill?) ) of all things Microsoft. wizard57m-cnet is also active on ZDNet, so I expected he'd get the Loverock reference. While membership in one site automatically grants membership in the other(s), there don't seem to me to be many people that are active on both. Both sites and others were originally run by CNet before CBS bought it; hence the suffix on wizard's handle. I believe we're the older site; I know we date back to 1999, but I'm not sure about their 'born on' date.

calhoun.andrew
calhoun.andrew

I'm trying to understand your comment, because it seems like it might be hilarious. Can you explain where is "over there?" Perhaps the discussion forums for more enterprise-oriented publications owned by the same publisher? I know explaining a joke tends to ruin it, but I am so curious now that I have to ask.

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