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1/31/2013
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Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?

Windows 8 takes up about 70% of the 64-GB Surface Pro's storage. Will this factor into the tablet's BYOD potential?

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For fans of ironic timing, Tuesday's tech new couldn't have been more perfect. Apple debuted a 128-GB iPad in the morning, ostensibly in response to the imminent release of Microsoft's Surface Pro, which will go on sale in 64-GB and 128-GB varieties on Feb. 9. Within hours, Apple's evident intent to compete on storage took a turn, as, almost on cue, reports began circulating that Windows 8 will occupy 45 GB on the Surface Pro's drive, leaving the device's usable storage capacity far short of advertised specs.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has had to deal with this sort of negative press. A lawsuit was filed late last year, for example, when a customer found that the company's 32-GB Surface RT tablet offered only 16 GB of usable space. In the most recent case, Microsoft representatives have been quick to point out that additional memory can easily be added via Surface Pro's microSDXC card slot and USB 3.0 port, and that SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud service, provides additional options.

From a certain vantage, the 128-GB iPad is actually more limiting; though iOS occupies only a little more than 3% of the device's capacity, users who fill the onboard solid-state drive (SSD) will be forced to delete content, offload files to the cloud or perhaps even purchase a new device. Still, if storage concerns are plaguing iPads, sales certainly haven't indicated as much. Despite taking heat from investors, Apple sold a record 23 million of the devices last quarter. That volume far outpaces the sub-1 million tally Microsoft achieved with Surface RT, a number that was less than half what it had hoped.

[ What about Microsoft's new productivity suite? Is it worth it? See MS Office 2013 Upgrade: 4 Points to Consider. ]

It would be overly simplistic, of course, to reduce Tuesday's news to an iPad-versus-Surface debate. Storage is only one of many features differentiating the two options, and the tablet game has filled out with competing models from Samsung and others. Even so, the Windows 8 footprint -- which leaves a relatively healthy 83 GB free on the $999 128-GB Surface Pro model but accounts for around 70% of capacity on the $899 64-GB version -- speaks to the many unknowns confronting tablet and PC makers as they vie for position in an increasingly saturated BYOD market.

Will prospective Surface Pro buyers be dissuaded by the storage concerns? Will enterprise users be compelled by the iPad's superior, and less expensive, out-of-box capacity, or will they prefer Surface Pro's ability to run Windows 8 Pro? Are users ready to begin harnessing the cloud en masse? With non-Microsoft devices now common in business environments, is Surface Pro's ability to tie into legacy management tools meaningful? Are both the iPad and Surface Pro poised to lose ground to cheaper options?

The answers to these questions could vary from one user to the next. Microsoft met with hundreds of business customers while designing Surface Pro, which will ship in an initial volume of 1 million units. Many features, such as the tablet's included stylus and IT-friendly hooks, are a result of this enterprise emphasis. But users will still have to buy a costly external keyboard separately, and it's unclear, given slow Ultrabook sales, whether a full-blown Windows 8 experience will appeal to more than a niche of power users. Enterprise-minded features are attractive, no doubt, but in the BYOD age, consumer-minded features count for a lot too.

There are clearly markets for both the iPad and the Surface Pro, and Microsoft's newest offering will likely inspire loyalty among those with specific needs. But the device is as much about growing an ecosystem as it is about hardware, and it's unclear how much Surface Pro buyers will help Redmond in this regard. Some analysts have not only praised the high margins Apple will enjoy with the 128 GB iPad model but also predicted that the device will avoid cannibalizing sales of the less expensive options. It remains to be seen how widely Surface Pro will revitalize Windows 8, promote services such as SkyDrive, and avoid cutting into Ultrabook sales.

In an email, ABI Research analyst Jeff Orr echoed questions about whether Surface Pro can become a widely used BYOD favorite. He observed that some of the Surface Pro buzz has reflected IT desires more than consumer decision-making but noted that Microsoft will have to compete with Windows 8 OEMs that arguably "have distribution and sales channels best-suited for reaching enterprise audiences," leaving Redmond to take "more of a consumer angle with retail."

"The question remains if BYOD will take hold for tablets and if consumers will buy Windows 8 Pro-based tablets in anticipation of using them in the workplace," Orr wrote.

As for the storage question, Orr said larger memory options "make sense" for enterprise tablets but are less important for consumer apps. He said ABI expects more tablets to migrate toward 128-GB offerings in the near future.

On the topic of Surface Pro, Orr wrote that Microsoft could risk misrepresenting the product if it doesn't refine its messaging around both storage and the user experience in general. "The story of, 'It's Windows. Everybody has it and loves it' just doesn't float anymore," he asserted. "The market has evolved and is willing to adapt to other methods."

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GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2013 | 8:07:29 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
This article misses the point - the Surface Pro isn't BYOD. It's hardware that can be doles out by IT. It's the only tablet available, out of the box, that can be plugged into existing AD infrastructure. Also, it's impossible that the 128 GB won't cannibalize sales of the lesser models - only power users of the iPad (aka existing users) will be buying the 128GB version. That means those same buyers will not be buying the lesser version, which is cannibalism.

The jury is out still, but losing 70% of the lower Surface Pro is a big deal. I would be furious to pay $900 and find out I only have 30% of my drive to use.
Verdumont Monte
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Verdumont Monte,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2013 | 8:46:47 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
That is fine, but the key issue is, you cannot use it as a traditional windows desktop, unless you install stuff on the SDcard. With my past employer, we had lot of bloated tools, which would be a nice fit for the tablet environment, but needs gigabytes of space. One example on top of my head was the application which was used to project the sales figures in the form of "cubes", the application itself was not that big, but it stored the data without any compression, so 600 MB files for each month was "normal". If you advertise yourselves as "Enterprise friendly" device, these sort of basic stuff should not be compromised.
Verdumont Monte
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Verdumont Monte,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2013 | 8:50:54 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
One key issue with older windows, even with 7, it unnecessarily caches the installation files, service pack files during each update. Why do you ever need those files? People will not be using tablets as their main workstation, so like Google and apple devices, MS should just have the raw essential binaries in their tablet. Esepcially in an enterprise scenario, you could possibly host all these files in a central location and have it used whenever necessary. This where MS fails to innovate. They could do more with the existing tools and design, but they fail to think out of box.
Leo Regulus
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Leo Regulus,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2013 | 9:41:22 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
Yes, it matters. No, it's not a 'Snafu'. (IMHO) It was planned that way.
Johnnythegeek
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Johnnythegeek,
User Rank: Strategist
1/31/2013 | 10:21:25 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
I have always had issue with the storage capacity of any of these devices. iPads, Surface or other tablets.
The value to me is not the best and you pay a steep price (especially on Surface Pro) for a device with limited storage. Even though it does have abilities to use SD storage. I had a Apple Macbook Air when they first came out. I opted for 256Gb storage and not the standard 128. I was certainly glade I did. Because unlike IOS for the iPad. OSX has like Windows swelled in size and also added a restore partition to the added space taken up even before you load a single program, file or picture. In my view a lack of storage almost forces you to save in the cloud which has its own set of problems. Mainly security and access.
Plus I would much rather have my files stored inside a device on a Flash memory. Then risk losing a SD card full of my files or forget to bring it. That's just my thoughts.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/1/2013 | 6:25:12 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
Windows caches installation files in what is known as Side-By-Side. This is for "self healing" when files get corrupted, etc. You'll notice that many applications can be "repaired" in Programs and Features. Side by Side is where the repair files come from.

As they say... "You don't need it - until you Need it".
bretus
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bretus,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/1/2013 | 10:31:30 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
It will probably gobble up hard drive space like all windows products do
So abscence of sd card slot is a bit stupid . not everyone wants to use the cloud.
SO WONT BE BUYING . But will buy if later models come with sd card slot .
Wonder if the battery is replaceable, since most laptop batteries only last 1 to 2 years.The battery in the surface pro will get quite a hammering given only about 4 to 5 hours use before recharge.
A tablet with windows 8 should come with at least 250GB with ability to expand .
If its got a laptop proccessor it should have laptop storage
I can not understand the logic of having sd slot in the RT and not in the PRO.
Surface Pro with decent storage would have made big inroads into ipads sales.
In other words i want a laptop tablet, when will someone make one?
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
2/1/2013 | 4:12:28 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
Storage has been an issue on these limited devices. At least there is a SD card slot and USB capability in recognition of the limitation (my iPad has none of that). I've always archived to external USB devices since they were available for long term stability through the evolution of jobs, laptops and PCs as they are replaced.
avwidw
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avwidw,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/1/2013 | 6:47:00 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
...read the article:
"additional memory can easily be added via Surface Pro's microSDXC card slot and USB 3.0 port, and that SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud service, provides additional options."
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
2/1/2013 | 7:21:45 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro Storage Snafu: Does It Matter?
After spending thousand bucks I don't want to add more storage just to get use of the Pro - no matter how easy it is.
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