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Microsoft's Surface Pro team takes on Reddit to finesse fondleslab

Battery covers, Linux, advanced touch, and much more

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In a canny PR move, the team behind the Surface Pro has hosted a discussion on the internet forum Reddit to answer questions about Microsoft's latest fondleslab.

These kinds of online forum discussions are risky, since they can't be tightly controlled. President Obama's attempt came across as slick, while others have been fascinatingly honest, but the Microsoft team went into surprisingly open detail about the Surface Pro and Redmond's thinking behind it.

On the battery front, the team was unapologetic. The battery size was cut small enough to keep the fondleslab relatively thin and below 2lb (just) but it's still able to power the Core i5 processor to its fullest potential.

"If you compare it to say a MacBook Air, you will quickly see that pound for pound in battery size vs battery life, you will find optimizations that puts Surface best in its class," the team said.

That said, the team hinted more than once that extra batteries could be built into covers for the tablet. The six connectors and twin ports on the base of the unit that use magnetic locking have been designed to allow high transfers of current, the team said.

"We haven't announced what they are for but they aren't an accident! At launch we talked about the 'accessory spine' and hinted at future peripherals that can click in and do more. Those connectors look like can carry more current than the pogo pins, don't they?"

Surface Pro connectors

What will these connectors bring? (click to enlarge)

If you want all-day battery life, then go for the Surface RT, the team advised. But the Pro is a fully functional laptop with a tablet form factor, and as such it has to have the full Windows x86 code base – and that comes at a cost.

Steven Bathiche, director of research in Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group, said that in order to minimize the battery load for the tablet, the Surface Pro has software to make the processor power much more dynamic.

"Surface Pro has the power when you need, but throttles down heavily when you don't need it so that you can carry it around.. pound for pound it is the fastest most portable device out there," he claimed.

He also said that Microsoft had used prototypes developed by Redmond's research arm in the Surface Pro's touch screen. This enabled them to bring the response time of touch controls down from 100ms to below 12ms and increase the pressure-sensitive capacity of finger and stylus operation.

The Surface Pro is perfectly compatible with other operating systems, provided you turn off Secure Boot, the team said. If you've got the storage space you want, you could run Linux or Mac OS on the system.

Another major complaint about the Surface is the small amount of space left after Windows 8 has left its bloated footprint. While it's true that the operating system load is heavy, the models that go on sale on February 9 will have a little extra space to play with – around six or seven gigs, in all.

On the Wi-Fi side, Microsoft is tweaking the Windows 8 firmware to give more reliable connections. The February 12 update will have some software for this, as will another update in March 12 to harden the system up.

On the crucial question of why Microsoft decided to try and sell the Surface Pro as an Ultrabook when it doesn't come with a keyboard, Redmond opted for the traditional excuse: it's all about consumer choice.

"It is an interesting discussion. When we launched Surface RT, we included the keyboard. Customer feedback then came through strongly that people want to choose – whether its color or Touch vs Type cover. While the Cover is an important part of the whole story, we believe customer choice is too and want to provide both," the team wrote, or possibly cut and pasted from a briefing document.

While Microsoft has been very careful to pitch the Surface Pro as an Ultrabook, not a tablet to rival Apple's 128GB iPad, the team got questions on that issue, too. The reply showed a certain amount of thought into how to tackle Apple's fondleslab dominance.

"Surface Pro is perfect for the person that wants a MacBook Air and an iPad, but doesn't want the weight or hassle of both devices. We didn't skimp on the performance you need to run a business but gave it to you in a very portable package." ®

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