Microsoft announced its ambitious sequel to the Surface and Surface RT tablets yesterday. Dubbed Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2, the tablets try to one-up its predecessors when it comes to a better battery life, specifications and accessories.
But, what good is a tablet without great applications to run on them? The sore lack of applications on the earlier Surface tablets seem to have made Microsoft learn the hard-way around how essential quality applications are in order for the products to beat the likes of Android and iOS tablets.
Microsoft seems to be painfully aware of the lack of apps
“Last year, we launched this product with 10,000 apps,” said Microsoft executive Panos Panay. “This year I stand up in front of you and there are 100,000 apps in the Windows Store right now. That's critical.” While this is an impressive number, it doesn’t exactly hold a candle to the number of applications on iOS and Android, optimised solely for tablets.
However, Microsoft seems to be making amend. Without going into too much detail about the applications, Panos mentioned that apps like Flipboard and Facebook were coming to Windows 8 soon too, but declined to mention details about their release dates. We also know that Mozilla is one of the many companies that are aiming to release a touch-optimised Windows 8 version of Firefox as well.
Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 have some great accessories that can have apps designed around them
Despite the big names that are all set to come to Windows Store, there is no denying that it is lagging far behind the likes of Google Play and Apple App Store that have been home to the likes of Facebook, Firefox and Flipboard since a long time now. Apple has over 900,000 applications in its App Store with 375,000 optimised for the iPad while Google says that Google Play Store has crossed the one million app mark already.
Let’s not assume the lack of applications will affect both of the new Surface tablets. This problem is solely going to affect Surface Pro 2. This tablet will support all Windows desktop software while the Surface 2 will not.
The company has focused its attention on making productivity a crucial selling point for the new Surface tablets. When Apple is giving away its iWork productivity suite with any new purchase of an iOS product, Microsoft knew it had to step its game up. It is piling up Surface 2 with Office Home & Student 2013 RT and Outlook RT. With Surface Pro 2, Microsoft will be including the full Microsoft Office suite in addition to the ability to run apps from Windows Store.
Microsoft seems to be leaving no stone unturned in order to make the new Surface tablets worth their bucks. Besides the Office productivity suite, it is making sure all its home-grown products are featured prominently on the tablets. Microsoft is giving away 200GB of SkyDrive for two years as well as a year’s worth of free international calls, and access to free Wi-Fi hotspots along with Skype.
The Surface Music Cover (image credit: Engadget)
To top it all, Microsoft has announced the Surface Music Cover that will hook onto Xbox Music to let aspiring DJs make music on Surface. The kit is pressure sensitive and lets Xbox Music recognise beats using the accessory. This could easily be one feature that beats the pants off iPad and Android applications. Of course there are third party-DJ applications on the iPad but having a first-party one from Microsoft puts it in a great position.
The new-gen Surface tablets have a lot of scope as far as applications are concerned. The fact that at least the Surface Pro 2 can run all the applications you can on your Windows 8 PC is laudable. Add to it the fact that it has accessories like the Surface Music Cover and the Digitiser Pen, and it is clear why users and critics alike are baying for Microsoft to introduce more applications on the platform. Clearly, Microsoft is aware that more applications are the need of the hour, and they seem to be working on it.