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Surface: How Microsoft Can Fix It

Stocks in this article: MSFT NVDA AAPL GOOG

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft's (MSFT) introduction of its Surface tablet raises some troubling questions. Yes, the Surface tablet also has some intriguing positive potential, but we really have to deal with the negatives first:

1. Timing

Why the hurry in announcing the product now? The ARM -- Nvidia (NVDA) -- version of the Surface tablet will ship in the fall, presumably October, while the Intel (INTC) version will ship three months thereafter -- presumably January.

What does Microsoft benefit from telling everyone about a product now, when the first version won't be available for three months, perhaps four? Apple (AAPL) only does this if they are introducing a whole new category of product, such as the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.

For existing product lines, Apple typically "ships today" or at least within the next two weeks.

As it stands, Microsoft now has tipped its hand to the competition, and will be losing some sales to people who will postpone their Windows purchases until the Fall. So one wonders why Microsoft didn't wait almost 90 days and host this event in early September instead.

2. Incomplete features and specifications

It appears that the Surface tablet doesn't have embedded cellular modem or GPS. This is a serious negative when compared to the iPad and several Android tablets, for example. When I'm walking down the street with the iPad, pecking away like the best of 'em meter maids, I would rather not have to rely on a separate portable WiFi hotspot in order to be connected.

Separate portable WiFi hotspots sound good in theory, but they have limited battery life, and the connection with a tablet tends to break often, leading to wasted time and frustration in attempting to re-connect. A separate portable WiFi hotspot can be economical if you have several devices that need connectivity, but it may not be worth the aggravation. The recent advent of shared data plans also start to threaten this price argument.

Microsoft also did not say what the expected battery life will be. Obviously they can be somewhat excused for holding off to a time closer to launch, but it seems suspicious. If they were comfortable about superior battery life, they would have at least made a conservative claim that still sounded impressive. Monday's relative silence on this point is not a good sign.

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