To deliver on Microsoft's vision of productivity for the Surface tablet, it needed an LTE version--and that has finally arrived.
Microsoft said it will begin shipping a version of the Surface 2 tablet with LTE connectivity embedded inside of it for $679, beginning in Tuesday. AT&T will supply the LTE technology. It will be up to the customer to sign up for one of AT&T's available plans, a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email. Apparently, there are no discounts or bundling deals.
Microsoft normally charges $US549 for the 64GB, Wi-Fi version of the Surface 2, which translates into a 23-percent markup for integrated LTE, as opposed to simply tethering a smartphone via Bluetooth or using a Wi-Fi connection. Users can buy the new tablet either from Microsoft directly or via Best Buy, Microsoft said.
"Many of you have told me that you'd like the capability to be online, even when Wi-Fi isn't available, so you can work, play, share, and communicate wherever you are," Panos Panay, Microsoft's corporate vice president in charge of Surface, said in a blog post released ahead of the announcement. "In simple terms, we are continuously being asked for a Surface that allows you to use mobile broadband."
Because the device is a Surface 2, users won't be to use any x86-compatible apps. However, Microsoft will provide free, unlimited Skype calls to landlines for one year, Skype Wi-Fi for one year, and 200GB of SkyDrive storage for two years.
Last September, Julie Larson-Green, executive vice president of the Devices and Studios business unit at Microsoft, revealed in an Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session that an LTE-powered Surface 2 was due in 2014. In February, FCC documents revealed that the tablet was making its way through the approval process.
A Microsoft spokesman said he had nothing to share regarding a Surface Pro 2 with integrated LTE. Geekwire reported last year, however, that Panay was "clear" that the company would not ship a version of the Surface Pro 2 with integrated LTE, although he did not explain why.
Now that Microsoft has shipped its Power Cover accessory, the Surface Pro docking station, and now an LTE version of the Surface 2 tablet, one of the only questions on its Surface roadmap concerns the use of the low-power, 'Bay Trail' Atom chips from Intel.
"Intel is a great partner to us, and we continue to look at all roadmap options to bring you the best products possible," Panay and Larson-Green wrote in the AMA, in an attempt to answer the question. "We are excited about the current products, and we think they meet the needs they were designed for. We will continue to evaluate options for the future."