Despite rave reviews from people like me and a distinct lack of innovation from Apple, the Surface lineup has never taken off as a true MacBook competitor for Microsoft. Sure, the hardware is neat, and sales aren’t terrible, but the MacBook’s niche as the machine of choice for students and “creatives” remains unchallenged.
So with the market seemingly immune to its siren song, Microsoft appears to be adding a new feature to target another profitable slice of the market: businesses. The company launched a new version of the Surface Pro on Tuesday that has built-in LTE connectivity, something that should appeal to businesses with remote employees, or really anyone who’s tired of tethering their iPhone to their MacBook with a dongle.
The Surface Pro with LTE isn’t cheap, however. It starts at $1,149 for the version with an Intel Core i5 and 4GB of RAM. While the Core i5 is fine for everything you’ll want to do on a hybrid laptop, 4GB of RAM is going to be a serious problem for almost anyone. The upgrade model, which comes with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, costs a MacBook Pro-esque $1,449.
Based on pure speculation, this could well be a first trial run for Microsoft to see how interested consumers are in LTE connectivity before rolling out more connected laptops in the relatively near future. Mobile Windows computing is about to be revolutionized by Windows devices powered by ARM-based mobile processors, the same as you’d find in a flagship smartphone. PCs powered by ARM processors promise tremendous battery life, thin size, and a lower price than most modern PCs. Crucially, since the mobile processors are built for use in smartphones, they also come with a modem that makes adding LTE connectivity a cinch.
Qualcomm and Microsoft announced ARM-powered Windows devices from a number of manufacturers last December, with release dates expected for some time in the first half of this year. Microsoft itself didn’t announce any new hardware at that event, but it’s easy to imagine that a low-cost connected Surface device could be in the works.
Pre-orders are open now, with shipping expected to begin on May 1st.