Does Resolution Really Matter?
Douglas is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
This week Microsoft ) went fully on the offensive, releasing pricing for its new Surface tablet, rolling out advertising and making Surface team members available to answer questions. The issue that seems to be rising to the top of the “chattersphere” is the fact that the new device has a screen resolution less than that available on Apple’s ) third-generation iPad. While this is arguably an important feature of a tablet, the potential disruptive force of the Surface has little to do with picture quality. As such it seems odd to me that resolution has become a subject of such hot debate. This conversation aside, the Surface looks like it has incredible potential and makes Microsoft a buy at current levels.
On Tuesday, Surface Design Team members took advantage of a feature offered by Readit.com to answer questions in the site’s “Ask Me Anything” format. Amongst the questions asked, the design team addressed the difference in the resolution offered by the Surface (1366 x 768) and the current iPad (2048 x 1536):
Most folks just focus on one number out of dozens that effect perceived detail. Without good contrast resolution decreases… With the ClearType Display technology we took a three-pronged approach to maximize that perceived resolution and optimize for battery life, weight, and thickness. First prong, Microsoft has the best pixel rendering technology in the industry (ClearType 1.0 and 2.0) … these are exclusive and unique to Windows, it smooths text regardless of pixel count. Doing a side by side with the new iPad in a consistently lit room, we have had many people see more detail on Surface RT than on the iPad with more resolution.
In other stories written of the comparative resolution between the devices, the same issue seems to repeat, with the same answer: pixel count alone is not enough to explain picture quality.
I understand that a good display is an important part of the tablet experience, particularly as more individuals are using tablets to watch video, but are resolution differences really enough to change your purchasing decision? If given the choice between two identically equipped tablets, clearly we would all prefer a better picture. What I cannot imagine is choosing a visually superior experience over a tablet with enhanced functionality.
Below the Surface
If the Surface is able to give users the functionality of a notebook computer in a tablet form factor, it will have effectively bridged the existing gap between PCs and handhelds. The new device, which goes on sale on Oct. 26, will run on Windows 8 and be capable of running the full suite of Microsoft Office programs. Especially for business users, this has the potential to make it of particular interest.
Tablets currently offered by Apple, Google ) and Amazon ) are primarily built for consumption. While there are some very important differences between the iPad, the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD, the Surface is a fresh approach to the tablet market because it has the potential to become a viable option for production. Users should be able to write reports, manipulate spreadsheets and design presentations from the new device. It is specifically this difference that makes the focus on the display quality seem inappropriate, or at least trivial.
If the Surface is to fully revolutionize the tablet market, it must not only be able to do the work of a laptop, but also cover those tasks currently performed by other tablets. It is perhaps within this latter context that the display conversation is important. Given the seemingly parabolic advance that the device represents, however, as long as the display is satisfactory, it does not need to be a central selling point of the device. The fact that Apple focused on the retina display as a reason to upgrade iPads, or the fact that Amazon has added the “HD” label to its tablets, should not distract you from the real advantage the Surface may offer.
Regardless of whether or not there is a true display differential between the Surface and its competitors, Microsoft’s new device is extremely well positioned, especially heading into the holidays. Given the huge potential as a disruptive force, Microsoft is a buy ahead of the official release.
Compare and Contrast
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Mr. Ehrman has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.