Adding to a string of announcements aimed at making its service more appealing to businesses, Dropbox this morning said that Dell will start selling the service to its customers.
Surface revamp shows the shape of Microsoft to come
Microsoft today launched a second generation of its Surface devices. Available on October 22nd, with pre-orders starting on September 24th, the new range refreshes and updates the ARM-based Surface tablet and adds Intel’s new Haswell processors to the Surface Pro.
What really impresses with the second generation of Surface devices is the attention to detail, and the way that Microsoft is addressing key use cases -- for both enterprises and consumers. Surface Pro 2 is clearly a business device, and the upgrade together with a docking station means it’s that much more capable than its predecessors. More power and improved graphics performance (and a full HD screen) give the Surface 2 a much needed boost, with better gaming performance and in Windows 8.1, a copy of Office with Outlook.
The second generation of Surfaces does more than showcase Windows 8.1. It’s also a showcase for the shape of Microsoft to come, with hardware, software, and services all working together. It’s still a vision, but it’s clear that in Surface Microsoft has grasped what the consumerization of IT means, and how tomorrow’s businesses will be shaped. This, then, looks to be a story that will run and run. Much like a Surface Pro 2 with a Power Cover.
Surface Pro 2: Better suited for enterprise use cases
It’s interesting to see how Microsoft is blending consumer-grade hardware with enterprise use cases. Surface Pro 2 is lighter, faster and more powerful than its predecessor, while still adding 75% more batter life (and with the new Power Cover, over 250% more). A desktop docking station that snap around either side converts it into a workstation that can drive two 3840 x 2160 screens from a mini-DisplayPort connector (as well as offering Ethernet, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0) -- and the Touch and Type covers still fit on when the dock is in place.
While it’s best thought of as an evolution of the original Surface Pro, extra storage options -- including a 512GB edition -- combined with that docking station meet many more enterprise needs.
Design head Rolf Groene believes the second generation delivers better on the promise of giving you two devices at once.
“We had a vision of a tablet that turns into a laptop. We want to make that as thin and light and as perfect as possible. It’s about simplification; we wanted to take two products and merge them into one. We spent a lot of time thinking how we could make things less.”
Speed remains important, and VP of Surface Panos Panay demonstrated real time video editing using 6K RAW footage from a Red camera. While Surface Pro is undoubtedly an enterprise-class device, Microsoft seems keen to show off its creative chops, with artists in the demonstration area showing how they were using the device -- from video production to web comics.
A wider range of accessories
As well as working with any PC peripheral, the Surface tablets have their own accessories. The slogan for the first generation of Surface devices was “click-in” -- having the keyboard click in to what Groene calls the “open edge” of the Surface with its clever magnetic connector.
But that doesn’t have to be a traditional keyboard; it could be almost any kind of touch surface you can think of, an idea that that Panay calls “blades”. Under the thin skin of the new Touch Cover are 1092 sensors, arranged in a simple grid. That’s a big change from the 80 discrete key sensors in the original device, as it means that with a little software and a screen-printed cover you could quickly click in a task-specific surface -- anything from a specialized medical user interface, to a set of keys for editing images or video, to a set of teaching aids.
The battle over which platform delivers the best location and context services to mobile users is already underway with Google in the lead, but Apple's purchase of mapping startups and social analytics firm Topsy, combined with its Bluetooth-based iBeacons (which recently went live in all of Apple's U.S. stores) could give Apple a strong chance.
Box is experiencing some good times these days with new features, new funding and a high profile CEO, but Box has to be careful as it grows to say true to its root and not fall into the trap becoming just another enterprise software company.