The battlefields upon which the mobile wars are fought change quickly. The older ones don’t go away, however. Instead, they are just superseded in importance by conflicts and contests over newer technologies.
Smartphones still are a big issue, of course. But perhaps the center of the competition between vendors has shifted, at least to a great extent, to tablets. In both instances, the battle was joined when Apple introduced iconic products. The iPhone and the iPad still rule.
The familiar task of catching up to Apple is at an interesting point in the tablet sector. Microsoft — which has had a well-chronicled and ongoing mid-life crisis — has introduced the Surface tablet. The word is that sales have been middling for the Surface RT, the one that has been released.
The difficult times in dealing with the iPad, at least from Microsoft’s perspective, may continue. The next version of Microsoft’s tablet, Surface Pro, is getting hammered even before its release. The issue — which is described by James Kendrick at ZDNet — is that the Pro will be Intel inside and RT uses ARM. This will cut battery life and increase heat challenges for Surface Pro. Wrote Kendrick:
The admission by Microsoft that the Surface Pro will get about half the battery life of the RT model, about 4 - 5 hours compared to the 9+ hours seen on the latter is a big deal. It shows dramatically the cost to battery performance that Intel levees over the ARM systems. This is in spite of using a 42 W-hr battery in the Pro model and only a 31.5 W-hr battery in the RT. A much bigger battery in the Intel model only delivers half the battery life of the ARM version.
Dino Grandoni, writing at Huffington Post, opened his commentary with the point that a strong device from Microsoft would be good news if for no other reason than as a motivator for Apple to improve the iPad. While the end of the comments and a note by Grandoni wavered on which tablet the Surface Pro should be compared to, that debate doesn’t seem to change Grandoni’s bottom line:
In 2012, a tablet device with a 4 or 5-hour battery life doesn't look all that appealing (especially when its price tag is significantly higher than the most popular device on the market). Users -- especially businesspeople on the road -- are away from power outlets for more than four or five hours practically every day.
Battery life and heat dissipation are significant issues for all portable devices, which a site in the UK has done a service in tracking with great specificity the battery life of a variety of 10-inch and 7-inch tablets. The work covers the RT but not the Pro.
The top and bottom among bigger devices were, respectively, the iPad with Retina display (811 minutes) and the Asus EEE Pad Transformer Prime (without keyboard, 335 minutes). The iPad Mini won at 7 inches with a runtime of 783 minutes. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. 7.0 ran out of juice most quickly, at 425 minutes.
The Surface Pro is expected next month, presumably at CES. While nothing is set in stone, it is difficult to imagine it recovering significantly from the bad press it already has gotten — especially if that press is true.