On 6th Feb 2013 Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, working on Surface and his Surface Windows 8 Pro Engineering Team hosted a Reddit chat and answered queries on Surface Windows 8 Pro.
It was the Second AMA (Ask Me Anything) by the Surface Team. Earlier in October had a similar AMAA (Ask Me or My Team Almost Anything ). Surface Team had answered questions about the Surface tablet . The participants in the chat queried about everything with a wide range of questions like: Can I load and run other OS like Linux on Surface Pro, Questions on the disk space in Surface Pro, What are connectors at bottom of the Surface Pro, Availability of Surface Pro outside US and so on. So one could get questions on Surface Pro answered straight from the Surface Pro Team.
Here is compilation of some of the interesting questions and their answers from the chat session.
Q: Is the Surface Pro boot loader unlocked so that I can load other Operating System Or am I locked in to Windows 8?
A: “Like other Windows 8 machines, you can access BIOS settings and turn off secure boot, enabling you to load other OS’s.”
Q: I’m seriously considering buying a Surface Pro to use as a more portable laptop, but the high price puts me off. Can you justify the price relative to all of your competitors’ tablets?
A: “Surface Pro is perfect for the person that wants a MacBook Air and an iPad, but doesn’t want the weight or hassle of both devices. We didn’t skimp on the performance you need to run a business but gave it to you in a very portable package.”
Q: Why was there a 3 month gap between the Surface RT and Surface Pro?
A: “This is simple. We started the Pro 3 months after we started Surface RT :-) That is exactly when we staffed the team to go and bring this product to life!”
Q: The Surface Pro has the Micro-SDcard slot but I can not configure my libraries with the SD card?
A: “That’s a good point – we will fix that.”
Q: Why didn’t you just do clever marketing and just say “Oh the Surface costs $999” with the keyboard included?
A: “It is an interesting discussion. When we launched Surface RT, we included the keyboard. Customer feedback then came through strongly that people want to choose – whether its color or Touch vs Type cover. While the Cover is an important part of the whole story, we believe customer choice is too and want to provide both.”
“We will sell Surface Pro without a cover to allow customers to select the color or style cover of their choice. We are releasing a set of Limited Edition touch covers starting in February and will continue to evolve Limited Editions to give customers more choices and options for colors across our colors in the future. “ “Touch covers to come in more colors soon.”
Q: Will the hard drive be able to be upgraded past the 128gb stock drive?
A: “Hi, this is Ed on the development team. The internal solid state drive built into Surface is not accessible for upgrade. However, the recessed micro SD memory card slot gives you unlimited memory expandability. The SDXC slot supports the highest performance SDXC memory cards.”
Q: Wouldn’t providing a USB flash drive with the recovery image in the box instead of on the drive would have removed this whole disk space issue?Could you not have done better with the partitions?
A: “We could have done this, but then there would be a chance it would be lost. We give you the ability to make one if you choose and free up the space.”
“We designed Surface Pro (and the allocation of disk space on our systems) to have the power of full Windows 8, the ability to have a simplified and fast upgrade to full Office and the confidence of a recovery image already available on your device. Beyond the flexibility and confidence this provides, we also include an ability to extend your storage via microSDXC, USB 3.0 and SkyDrive (including 7GB of free storage). Initial reports out regarding available disk space were conservative (eg. 23GB available on 64GB and 83GB available on the 128GB system), however our final production units are coming in with ~6-7GB additional free space.
Available disk space is a design choice and a tough one to make as an engineering team. It is a clear set of tradeoffs to provide the customer more space while providing them the tools out of the box. We created a simple disk image with only a few critical applications out of the box installed to provide choice. There has also been questions about why including the recovery image by default. Ideally, you will never need your recovery image, however this is a choice we would prefer the customer to make vs. having the customer need the recovery image not realizing they needed to create one themselves.” Marc DesCamp
“We decided to ship a Pro 64GB sku as it provides full windows 8 and enough storage for a number of large application installs such as games, productivity apps etc. which usually run in the multiple GBs. It also provides you flexibility to extend storage should you need. If you plan to carry more personal items with you locally, our 128GB may be the better option for you.”
Q: Why couldn’t Microsoft do something to get better battery life out of the Surface Pro?
A: “The product was designed to take full advantage of Windows 8 coupled with the Ivy Bridge core processor from Intel. We created a product that did not compromise speed, performance in any way. With that, we wanted to be the best notebook/laptop product in its class, but still deliver you the tablet form factor. This product is optimized in every way to take advantage of the full third generation core i5 it runs, yet give the best battery life. If you compare it to say a MacBook Air, you will quickly see that pound for pound in battery size vs battery life, you will find optimizations that puts Surface best in its class. That said we picked a smaller battery to be sure we were able to give you the same performance and to keep it thin. This kept the weight under 2lbs, and still kept it thin enough to take advantage of our great Windows work for inking and give you a great inking experience (like pressure sensitive inking, ability to do kanji, great sketching). While these tradeoffs are challenges as much as they are opportunities, we think given the performance and experience you will be getting, it is an exciting product.”
Q: Is the volume louder on this than the RT? Can I use the stylus like a mouse? Did you guys improve the speakers over the RT Surface?
A: “Yes volume is louder than RT :-). That said, we are also working on a firmware update that will bring more volume to Surface RT devices on market today!! Yes you can use the stylus as a mouse!”
“Yes, the speakers are different in Pro. They are higher powered because there is more space in the Pro. At the same time, we are making updates to RT to improve the speaker performance there too. “
Q: Will this run League of Legends, or not?
A: “Surface Pro is compatible with millions of existing games for Windows.”
Q: Why does marketing insist on messing things up with names, Calling it the Surface Windows 8 Pro?Why not just call it the Surface Pro?
A: “We often use both the short and the long name. We use the long name to help people understand what they are buying and, for many people, this relates to the version of Windows. However, we also use the shortened names of Surface Pro and Surface RT as needed. “
Q: What are those new connectors on the bottom of the Surface Pro for?
A: “It’s too early to say, but we’d love to get your suggestions. :)”
“Wow – I’m pumped you caught that – we haven’t announced what they are for but they aren’t an accident! At launch we talked about the “accessory spine” and hinted at future peripherals that can click in and do more. Those connectors look like can carry more current than the pogo pins, don’t they?”
Q: Why is no stylus silo/even some sort of clip present?
A: “Hey, this is Ralf. We designed the Surface Pro pen like a normal pen. We wanted the user experience to be close to a regular note book. It has a clip and it can be carried clipped to the cover or carried with your other pens. We also made the button of the pen magnetic so you can clip it onto the side of your Surface, into the power dock. This way it stores easily without making the device bigger. “
Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen the Surface used for?
A: “Hey this is StevieB.. Surface Pro is a unique tablet.. in that it offers 4 modes of input in a compact form factor. It has touch, because of Touch/Typecover you have a mouse and keyboard which is built in to your screen cover, and now you have a digital Pen. So the combination is unique in that you have something the size of a tablet but the power and productivity of a laptop. I see people around here use Surface Pro as their main machine.. switching from reading an e-book in their hands, running Outlook, and flipping it to the desk and running a full version of PhotoShop. I just loaded photoshop the other day.. and boy it loaded fast.. faster than my desktop. I was like ya baby .. so Surface Pro has the power when you need, but throttles down heavily when you don’t need it so that you can carry it around.. pound for pound it is the fastest most portable device out there.. “
These were some of the answers compiled from the chat. As you know the Surface Pro is going to launch on Feb 9, Microsoft also provided some details on Microsoft Store and Best Buy store where these will be available in the chat.
The complete chat session can be accessed here at this likk – I am Panos Panay with the Surface Windows 8 Pro Engineering Team AMAA.