Microsoft is its 'own worst enemy' in bold tablet move, says analyst

Forrester analyst worries that the dual-OS strategy will confuse buyers

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Rotman Epps decried the multi-OS choice facing Surface buyers and compared it to the lack of options offered by Apple. "Choice is a key tenet of Windows, but too much choice is overwhelming for consumers. Apple gets this, and limits iPad options to connectivity, storage, and black ... or white," she wrote.

Actually, the iPad comes in many more configurations: Three choices of storage size, two of connectivity -- Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus cellular -- and two types of the latter to account for the world's two dominant cellular data network standards. That's nine different options, or 18 if black-vs.-white is tossed into the mix.

Microsoft will offer just four Surface configurations: Two of the Windows RT model (32GB or 64GB of storage) and two for the Windows 8 Pro version (64GB or 128GB).

But for all the iPad's permutations, one thing is constant: They all run the same operating system, iOS.

Other experts were also surprised that Microsoft announced both Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets, but for different reasons.

"I'm a little surprised that they decided to make both ARM and Intel versions," admitted Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft. "ARM I could see, because [Windows RT] is the new thing and Microsoft may not have gotten many partners to commit to that, but the Intel [Surface] could really cut into their partners' sales."

Microsoft has not spelled out the prices for the Surface tablets, other than to say that they will be comparable to those of other mobile devices that run Windows RT or Windows 8.

Nor has it set an exact date of availability. The Windows RT Surface will go on sale around the time that Windows RT and Windows 8 launch -- expected in the fall -- while the x86 device running Windows 8 Pro will debut three months later.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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