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Saturday, August 23, 2014


Microsoft's Surface Pro is a bet that convergence will lead to a device that blends a laptop and a tablet. I'm both a fan of the Surface Pro and the Dell Venue 8 Pro, both of which do things that neither tablet nor phone can do. However, I believe that Microsoft's approach is at best flawed.

The convergence I'm betting on is between tablet and phone. I noticed this when my wife, who owns a Galaxy Note 2, the above mentioned Venue 8 Pro, and the Surface Pro would either use the Galaxy Note 2 (for general surfing, quick purchases, or Facebook) or the Surface Pro (for general content creation). But her mode of use of the Surface Pro is that of a desktop: usually tethered to a large monitor, rather than as a tablet. While many have complained about the battery life on the Surface Pro, she's never even noticed, indicating that the disconnected operation time is minimal.

This makes sense: the Galaxy Note 2 is already fast enough compared to the Venue 8 Pro, and the screen size at 5 inches is also comparable that to the Venue's 8 inch form factor. For watching movies, etc., they're both already pretty good (though the Note 2 is a 1080p while the Venue 8 Pro's a bit less at 1280x800), and the Note 2's handy stylus is much easier to access than the Venue 8's. The reason why 8" tablets took off is the price: while the Galaxy Note 2 was close to $600, you can get a Venue 8 Pro at around $200, or a third of the price. But you sacrifice considerable functionality to get there: you no longer have always on internet, the resolution of the screen doesn't go up commensurately, and things like bluetooth are much clunkier.

More importantly, you only have so many hours in the day, and you've got a lot more experience with the phone than the tablet. So even though the tablet might be better for some things (e.g., the Venue 8 Pro's tablet's browser is superior and is a real web browser, unlike the Galaxy Note 2's), you might not waste time picking it up unless there was a specific use case, such as a web site that just refuse to be viewed via the Galaxy Note 2's.

So what I think Microsoft needs to work on is a 5.5" (or 6"!) phone running a full on version of Windows with appropriate software. Such a device might even have a port for an external monitor. At $600-$800, such a device would clearly be superior to existing tablets and phones, and I might even consider getting one. This device could easily eliminate the need to carry a phone, tablet, and laptop. Of course, getting sufficient battery life and power out of such a device might be a technical challenge, but it's one that's suited very much to Microsoft's engineering team.

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