Nvidia is working with Microsoft on an upgraded Surface tablet. With earlier reports indicating Qualcomm is also involved, Microsoft could be prepping an entire family of Win RT models.
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Nvidia is working with Microsoft on the next version of the Surface RT, according to Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.
Reports that Qualcomm will provide the processor for a second-generation Surface tablet also suggest not only that Microsoft could launch a new Windows RT tablet imminently, but also that the company is planning multiple models.
Outlook compatibility is a significant addition, given Windows RT's relatively bare-bones native Mail app. If nothing else, it makes Windows RT a more attractive BYOD option that will easily sync with the business systems at many companies.
Nevertheless, one hopes that Microsoft has bigger and bolder plans for "killer apps." Unlike Windows RT tablets, devices that run the full version of Windows 8 already support Outlook. With Acer recently cutting the price of its 8-inch Iconia W3 tablet to $299, Win 8 tablets are also becoming relatively budget-friendly. If Outlook were in such hot demand, shouldn't the cheaper Windows 8 tablets be selling better?
It's important for Windows RT's long-term prospects that the next Surface perform better than the current model, which has posted notoriously poor sales. In an attempt to boost adoption, Microsoft recently slashed the device's price by $150, bringing the base model down to $349.
Microsoft's Surface Pro, which runs the full version of Windows 8, was also recently discounted. It dropped by $100, making the base model $799.
The poor performance has taken a toll. Citing poor demand, OEMs have largely abandoned Windows RT, which accounted for only 0.5% of tablet shipments in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC. Microsoft needs to reassure device makers that Windows RT's Modern UI can attract users.
To do so, Microsoft might be expanding the Surface lineup.
Bloomberg also said Nvidia would continue to supply parts for certain Surface versions. This led to speculation that Microsoft will produce at least two Windows RT devices, perhaps a smaller model with the Qualcomm chip and a 7- or 8-inch screen, and a larger model with an Nvidia chip and a form factor more like that of the current 10-inch.
Price has been an obstacle for Surface tablets so far, but with an expanded family, Microsoft could have more flexibility to compete at the low end of the market. Google's Nexus 7 has been praised as a great value at $199, for instance, and if Microsoft prices a Qualcomm-powered Surface RT model at around the same price, Windows RT's fortunes could turn.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also reportedly told employees an internal town hall that new devices are in testing. At the same meeting, Ballmer reportedly also conceded that Surface sales have been a disappointment.
While details about future Surface RT models have started to flow, rumors about a refreshed Surface Pro have been relatively scant. Still, any Pro update would presumably include one of Intel's new Haswell processors, which should solve at least one of the device's major shortcomings: lousy battery life.
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