Microsoft is expected to unveil the second generation of its Surface tablets Monday morning in New York City. It’s a chance for redemption, or at least a fresh start, following lackluster sales of the first generation of the device.
There have been many leaks that provide a sense for what to expect — including upgraded processors, a two-position built-in kickstand, and new accessories such as a docking station and a “power cover” that serves as both keyboard and spare battery, according to reports by Paul Thurrott of Windows SuperSite and Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet. Thurrott says Microsoft is also planning to announce a “Surface Mini” at a later date.
That stuff sounds fine, but I have my own list: Things my family wants.
This list is based on our real-world use of the Surface RT (and Surface Pro) for much of the past year. In a moment of bold decisiveness, I spent my family’s iPad budget on a Surface RT last year, just for the experience. After all, it was a historic device in many ways, as Microsoft’s first real computer. I also used a Surface Pro review unit from Microsoft extensively.
So the Surface is a familiar site in my house. It gets used every day, and as a family we have some opinions about what Microsoft needs to do in this second generation. Here are some of them.
1) Fix the power port. This might not seem like a big deal, but wow, is it a pain point. It frequently takes multiple tries to attach the power adapter securely to the device. The port is badly shaped, and the magnetic pull isn’t strong enough. It’s completely awkward, and frustrating. Please fix this, Microsoft, so that no one else will have to suffer.
2) Make the device friendlier in the hand and more usable in portrait mode. The existing Surface tablets have hard edges and a harsh horizontal orientation, making them uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, and almost laughable to use vertically. Smoother corners and a more conventional aspect ratio would really help. Unfortunately, the reports say that the second-generation hardware will be very similar to the first.
3) Improve the battery life in the Surface Pro. I’ve been lucky to get 4 hours, which isn’t that bad, but this is the workhorse tablet, and something closer to all-day would be ideal. Mary Jo Foley says the Intel “Haswell” processor in the new version will allegedly extend the Surface Pro to seven hours of battery life.
4) Make it easier to use the Surface Pro as a desktop machine. The new dock sounds good. Here’s hoping Microsoft delivers it as promised, for a reasonable price.
5) Make the Surface RT more powerful. Until recently, one of our phones was an old iPhone 3S, and at times it would load apps and sites faster than the Surface RT would. Hopefully the upgrade to a TEGRA 4 ARM processor will help.
6) Apps: I actually wasn’t going to include this — it’s a cliché at this point, right? — but when I asked my iPhone-using wife to name the top thing she wished she could change about the Surface, she said she wished it had all the apps that she uses on her phone.
So there you have it — one family’s opinions. Tune in Monday to see what Microsoft does.