Microsoft's product marketing manager for Surface, Jack Cowett, recently admitted that Microsoft dropped the "RT" from its latest ARM-based Surface tablet to reduce customer confusion. Microsoft reportedly blamed "customer confusion" for the lack of sales of its first-generation Surface RT model, which ended up costing the company $900 million in fiscal Q4 2013. Removing the "RT" will supposedly help alleviate that confusion even though Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 use two different architectures.
"We think that there was some confusion in the market last year on the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro," Cowett said. "We want to help make it easier for people, and these are two different products designed for two different people."
The new Surface 2 will feature a 10.6 inch ClearType 5-point screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, powered by Nvidia's Tegra 4 SoC, 2 GB of RAM and Windows RT 8.1. Other features will include a 3.5MP camera on the front, a 5MP camera on the back, an SD card reader, Wireless N and Bluetooth connectivity, HDMI output, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage, and more. It will also have a new two-stage kickstand based on customer feedback from the previous model.
"We got quite a lot of really good feedback from the original Surface Pro, but one thing people said to us was, 'hey if you really want us to use this thing on your lap, you need to make it easier to use as a laptop'," he said. "We've added a second angle for the kickstand, so it's much more comfortable to use on your lap. It's a tiny change but it makes a huge difference."
The problem Microsoft will face, whether it uses "RT" in the device name or not, is that customers purchasing the Surface 2 won't be able to install their favorite x86-based desktop apps. Granted, Microsoft made a bad choice in offering Surface RT exclusively in Microsoft Stores and Microsoft's website until the end of 2012. Surface Pro's faring better (even though it costs a bit more) shows what customers seemingly want in a Windows device. Yanking the "RT" out of the device name could be seen as a little deceptive to customers who don't know the difference between ARM and x86-based architecture.
Recently, there's been a lot of talk about Microsoft moving to one storefront and eventually merging Windows Phone and Windows RT. The Windows team is even shooting for one silicon interface, one cloud service, one set of APIs and one marketplace spanning both architectures. A big push in this direction is supposedly beginning in Spring 2014, but we'll see.
Back on October 2, the Surface blog was updated with news that pre-order stock of the Surface 2 (64 GB) and Surface Pro 2 (256 GB and 512 GB) were close to selling out, even at Microsoft Stores. How many units were actually available to pre-purchase is unknown, as Microsoft will likely avoid the same overstocking misstep it took with the original Surface RT.
However, the Register reports that Microsoft only shipped a total of 2,000 Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 units to nine resellers in the UK, 1500 of which were Surface 2 models. That said, Microsoft may be "selling out" of Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 pre-purchase stock, but this stock could be highly limited in numbers.