Just one day after Microsoft revealed the pricing and release date of its Surface Pro (Surface with Windows 8 Pro) tablets, talk of Microsoft working on the sequel device has already appeared. The news arrives by way of well-known Microsoft leaker MS_nerd who claims that the Redmond company is currently working on an updated Surface RT 2, an updated Surface Pro 2, and a new device called the Surface Book.
According to the source, Microsoft's sequel to the ARM-based Surface RT tablet will sport an 8.9-inch display and a Qualcomm SoC instead of Nvidia's Tegra chip. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro, which doesn't even go on sale until January, will be upgraded to an 11.6-inch display. Instead of using the Intel Core i5 CPU, it will instead feature the upcoming AMD "Temash" APU.
As for the third device in question, the supposed Surface Book, very little information was provided. MS_nerd claims that it will feature a 14.6-inch display and an Intel 22-nm "Haswell" chip. Using the next-generation Intel Haswell processor isn't surprising given that it's the successor to the current Ivy Bridge line, but a 14.6-inch tablet? Microsoft could be shooting for its own Surface-branded ultra-thin notebook instead.
But what of the Surface Pro successor? Microsoft may be aiming to use an AMD APU in order to keep the cost from skyrocketing after upgrading the screen to 11.6-inches. Neowin points out that Temash is the successor to AMD's current Hondo range of tablet-specific APUs, but the latter Hondo chips have only just started to saturate the market. That said, it may be a while before the Temash APUs will be ready for production. Even more, using an AMD APU would seemingly disrupt Microsoft's "Wintel" relationship with Intel.
Both the Intel Haswell and the AMD Temash aren't expected to be ready for mass production until mid-2013. Consumers likely won't see final products until this time next year, staying in tune with Apple's own yearly release schedule with its iPad and other iOS gadgets. Heck for all we know, Microsoft may be gearing up for one huge Windows 8 release in 3Q13 including Surface RT 2, Surface Pro 2, Surface Book, Xbox Infinity (with Kinect 2), and the Foxconn-manufactured Surface smartphone, all sporting the next build of Windows 8 or Windows RT, depending on the processor.
That being said, it would not be surprising to find out that they are working on the next thing. Every company works on the next thing pretty much as soon as they finish with the first thing. That's how the product cycles works. Rarely do companies make something that is a one-off with no plans for it to continue.
All in all, this isn't much in the way of news.
The move to an 11.6" Surface with AMD may not necessarily be a great move. 11.6" screens tend to be overly wide (when in a 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio, as is the case with almost all 11.6" screens these days) and not very moveable. Samsung has one out right now that I played with, and overall it doesn't seem to be the right form factor for documents/note-taking, as it's not wide enough when in portrait orientation. Additionally, AMD processors are nowhere near as power efficient as Intel CPUs (stems from the architecture, circuit design, and even the materials used in the chips). Most people expect about ~8 hours from a laptop/tablet these days, and I don't think AMD is going to get them there.
I'm not saying my opinion is an end-all-be-all, but in my eyes the Pro 2 moves this article outlines don't sound very logical.
What the heck do you intend do with an ARM based tablet? I have heard of no app available for win RT, much less found one myself, which runs particular badly on the current surface. Sure, some things could be faster (i.e. starting some apps or switching between them) but I still need to see proof that this will work significantly better just by putting in a faster "cpu/gpu". Overall system repsone feels actually quite good.
I for one would trade in peak performance for run time without one thought lost on how fast something could have been in actually the rare occasion where I do need such computing power, if I can do what I usually want with a tablet e.g. for 1 hour longer.