By Jonathan Charles | Jun 24, 2012 01:15 PM EDT
One feature Microsoft didn't detail for its Surface tablets during the June 18 announcement was whether cellular connections would be supported, and by extension what carriers would offer plans and pricing tiers. The reason for no details was because cellular plans aren't available: Surface is Wi-Fi-only.
Sources speaking to Bloomberg claimed Microsoft isn't supporting 3G or 4G, despite the company not announcing the full specs. Other aspects of the hardware, such as the specific resolutions, have not been revealed.
Apple offers the new iPad - Microsoft's main rival - with "Wi-Fi + Cellular" across AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. 4G is available in the U.S., while some European markets such as the UK only offer 3G.
Ben Bajarin, a Creative Strategies analyst, claimed Wi-Fi is still a larger market and could be the reason for Microsoft not supporting cellular connections. Microsoft is positioning Surface as a "PC," not a tablet. Offering a non-portable PC may not convince people the device can be used as a productivity device.
Microsoft may also want to keep costs down: there were rumors the company is making a limited amount of money from the Surface tablets, which will be sold in Microsoft stores and some online retailers. For a flagship Windows 8 product, it was expected the devices would be widely available particularly as Microsoft seems to be competing directly with the iPad in terms of functionality and specifications.
"Wi-Fi-only is not a limitation for Surface," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said to Bloomberg. The iPad continues to be successful with its Wi-Fi only models, so there's little reason to suggest Surface can't sell well.
If true, it'll means users don't have to pay for another subscription, in the age where digital services from Xbox Live to Netflix to Internet connections require an ongoing fee.
Microsoft also said during the announcement that Surface is not competition for other Windows 8 devices. Instead it's to show OEMs what Windows 8 devices can look like, so 3G and 4G support many not be a priority. With a small amount of stores seemingly selling Surface, achieving strong sales may not be a priority for the company. However, the fact that the device has been top-secret and years in development could have come as an embarassment to some.
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