Microsoft’s Surface fails to impress critics in the US

Mixed reviews have greeted the launch of Microsoft’s first tablet computer produced in-house, the Surface, which is seen as a crucial element of the company’s strategy to survive the continuing decline of the PC market. Verdicts from commentators in the US said that while the device’s touch screen was impressive it offered poor resolution, was too heavy and offered a very limited array of apps which in turn were found to crash frequently. The device is going up against Apple’s iPad, the Nexus 7 from Google and the Kindle Fire from Amazon at a time when tablets, big and small, are crowding out the PC, with sales of personal computers down 8% on a year ago.

Several users said that the Surface fell between two stools – designed to consume content like the iPad but also, like a traditional PC, looking to create it. A device of “compromises and confusion” as one critic said.

The tablet will be available worldwide from Friday after today’s global launch of Windows 8, the most radical redesign of Microsoft”s best-selling operating system since Windows 95 a full 17 years ago.

Surface, which in the UK will only be able to be bought online, runs on a version of Windows 8 called WindowsRT, and its interface is primarily designed for touch.

It does, however, come with a keyboard and the basic Office software like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The devices two high definition cameras were heavily criticised described by some users as junk, with some reviews claiming their pictures are grainy.

For many the device’s biggest weakness is its lack of apps, just 4,000 worldwide, compared to 275,000 for the iPad. Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Angry Birds are all missing, according to the New York Times.

At technology site The Verge its review of the Surface concluded with: “There may be a time in the future when all the bugs have been fixed, the third-party app support has arrived, and some very smart engineers in Redmond have ironed out the physical kinks in this type of product which prevent it from being all that it can be.

“But that time isn”t right now – and unfortunately for Microsoft, the clock is ticking.”

The launch came as Apple unveiled its widely-anticipated tablet, the iPad Mini. The device, which is 7.2mm (0.3in) thick and weighs 0.68lbs (0.3kg), was announced at an event in California. The entry wi-fi-only model, with 16GB storage, will cost £269 in the UK and be available on 2 November.

The company’s vice-president of marketing Phil Schiller said that the device was 23% thinner and 53% lighter than the third-generation iPad, which was released in March this year. The iPad Mini launch ends years of speculation that Apple was considering launching a new, smaller version of its bestselling iPad range.

Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum, said he had expected the iPad Mini to be more competitively priced. Speaking to the BBC he said, “We got a mix of a bit of new Apple and bit of old Apple in the same announcement.”

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