With the introduction of the iPad Air, Apple has changed the game once again. "Thinness" is once again the watchword, and every upcoming tablet will be compared against Apple's thinner, lighter tablets to see if they measure up.
The thing is, several recently announced Windows tablets do measure up. Quite well, in fact. They're just not made by Microsoft.
On Tuesday morning, a few hours before Apple unveiled its own offerings in San Francisco, Microsoft began selling its Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets. Yesterday, we summed up those Microsoft's tablets quite simply: excellent hardware, but crippled by a lack of apps. But by Tuesday afternoon, Microsoft's Surface 2 (and especially the Surface Pro 2) looked clunky compared to Apple's new ultra-thin 9.7-incher.
Nokia announced a new Windows tablet as well—but no one is going to remember it either. But there are some new Windows 8.1 devices that will help Microsoft's story in our new post-iPad Air world.
Apple's incredible lightness of being
Before we delve into the new super-thin, lightweight Windows hardware, let's give credit to Apple's marketing team for its mastery in controlling the message. Remember when Steve Jobs pulled out the MacBook Air from a manila envelope? Fast forward to Apple's latest commercial, which hides the new iPad Air behind a pencil. Apparently we all aspire to hide a tablet behind a pencil. Nirvana!
I did appreciate, however, Apple's image of a strapholder clasping an iPad while riding public transportation. Some potential customers just won't get it:
Not every commuter can drive home in his or her own car. And for those who take public transportation, it's not every day that you can land yourself a seat on a train. So while holding a large tablet while seated makes sense, gripping a tablet one-handed while swaying back and forth for an hour or so is another thing altogether. Here, the less weight, the better. In short, the new full-size iPad Air represents a significant advancement that the iPad mini proved out long ago.
Like its name suggests, the iPad Air minimizes weight: The Wi-Fi version measures 9.4 inches long by 6.6 inches wide, and is 0.29 inches (7.5 mm) thin. It also weighs 464 grams, or 1 pound. The updated iPad mini, by contrast, measures 7.87 inches long by 5.3 inches wide, and 0.73 pounds. (Apple's 3G versions of each tablet are slightly heavier.)
By comparison, even the Surface 2 is ungainly: There's just no way that consumers will tolerate holding a 10.8-inch Surface weighing 1.5 pounds, or a Surface Pro 2 weighing 2.0 pounds, with one hand.
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