Windows 8 Update: New Kindle takes on Microsoft Surface 2 in workplace

Also, nobody but Microsoft will touch Windows RT, Bill Gates gets his purple wish

The new Kindle Fire HDX tablet is giving Microsoft's Surface 2 a run for its money as a business device even though the Surface 2 won't be available until next month.

Kindle HDX can view Microsoft Office applications via OfficeSuite Viewer, can grab emails from a corporate Exchange server via ActiveSync, prints wirelessly and supports Bluetooth keyboards and mice.

It can be brought under the purview of AirWatch, MaaS360, Citrix, GoodTechnology, and SOTI mobile device management platforms to control network configuration, security, feature controls, inventory and to manage apps.

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It supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE (from AT&T or Verizon).

The company promises more: hardware device encryption, VPN support, single sign-on via the Amazon Silk browser that comes with the device and support for digital certificates.

Amazon provides Whispercast, a Web tool for distributing apps and documents.

With an 8.9-inch screen in the large model, the device is smaller than the 10.6-inch Surface 2. Other features the Surface 2 has that Kindle HDX doesn’t: a full Microsoft Office suite and Windows 8.1 with its VPN, access control and a feature called Workplace Join that enables connecting to Windows Server environments.

Still, Amazon is pushing its new device, available in December, as workplace friendly.

The price for the 64GB Kindle with LTE is $579, and without LTE it’s $479. The 64GB Kindle without LTE is $549, and no word on what the version with LTE will cost when it comes out next year.

Depending on how well the Android-based Kindles sell this holiday season, IT departments with BYOD policies could start seeing them show up in the office. Android-based tablets sell much better than Windows RT tablets.

Has the Surface 2 Mini been announced already?

CNET reports that based on analysts’ information, Microsoft is working on a 7.5-inch Surface 2 due out next year. It ties that together with an earlier Microsoft statement that Windows RT is based on ARM processors for their built-in mobile broadband support, indicating the Mini might have broadband.

This week Microsoft promised a Surface tablet next year with mobile broadband. Perhaps this is the Mini. What the company said doesn’t rule it out: “We didn't talk about it today, but Surface 2 will be launching an awesome LTE SKU early next year!” says Microsoft’s Surface vice president Panos Panay in a Reddit chat.

Microsoft sews up the Windows RT market

Now that Dell has dumped its own XPS Windows RT tablet, Microsoft is the only hardware vendor using the platform, which is a bundled hardware-software package based on ARM chips that hasn’t seen much uptake in its first year of existence.

That means that if Microsoft hadn’t decided to make its own hardware, likely nobody would be selling Windows RT right now. Given that pure hardware vendors know a thing or two about what sells, Windows RT has received a resounding thumbs-down.

Blades

Microsoft announced a blade cover/keyboard this week when it unveiled its upgraded Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets that could offer some interesting possibilities for programmers.

The blade shown off by Microsoft is a snap on touchpad very much like a Touch Cover 2 keyboard only it’s embossed with a 16-key number pad and three sliders for mixing music.

But given that the Remix Project is based on the basic keyboard hardware, it seems programmers could write code for it that would do something else besides typing characters and mixing music – perhaps drawing and painting, controlling industrial equipment, whatever.

Opening up an API for the keyboards and turning it loose on developers would no doubt generate a lot more possibilities.

The color purple

The Verge recalled that last year just after Windows 8 launched a Microsoft ad showed a hypothetical Bill Gates text to Steve Ballmer, suggesting a purple Type Cover keyboard for Surface tablets. This week, Microsoft announced a purple Type Cover.

Gates still has clout.

Here’s the ad, with Gates’s text shown at 13 sec.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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