Is Surface Pro manufacturing set to start in December?

Hints from a Chinese publication suggest Surface Pro and Xbox Surface tablets will start production next month.

The advent of Chinese tech media on the Internet has been both a blessing and a curse for us journalists in the states. On one hand, China is as porous as a colander and can't keep a secret to save its collective lives. Take the embarrassing Paul Otellini comment about Windows 8, for example. On the flip side, they have an accuracy rate to rival some Fox News pollsters. I've fallen for inaccurate stories on DigiTimes enough times that I take their stories with an entire shaker of salt, not just a few grains.

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So, can I trust the Commerce Times (and Google Translate)? The Commercial Times is the largest financial newspaper out of Taiwan, and it has been a source for many rumors in the electronics industry for years. For now, let's give them the benefit of the doubt, because this is pretty good.

According to a rough translation of this article on the Commerce Times, Microsoft will begin ramping production of the Surface Pro and Xbox Surface tablets in December.

Surface Pro isn't a major secret. It's been known for some time that Surface Pro was on tap for 2013. Surface Pro will run the full-blown version of Windows 8 along with all other Windows 7 software. Current Surface tablets are ARM-based and can't run anything but Windows 8 software.

If manufacturing begins in December, expect a January/February release, barring any production problems.

As for Xbox Surface, that rumor first hit five months ago after an article appeared in The Verge. The article was quite detailed because it had what was purported to be a Microsoft spec sheet. The Xbox Surface would be a standalone 7-inch gaming tablet with an ARM-processor paired wirelessly to a base station, similar to Nintendo's Wii U console.

Inside that base station would be dual PowerPC processors, 5GB of memory, a 250GB hard drive, a custom AMD graphics processor, an Ethernet port, HDMI and component video, four USB ports, optical audio and support for up to four wireless game controllers, The Verge reported. The Xbox Surface tablet only had a resolution of 1280x720, but the base station could put out higher-resolution video than standard HDTV, at 2640x1440 pixels.

The rest of the Commercial Times story is behind a security wall I could not get around, so it does not say when either tablet would ship, just that manufacturing would begin in December. If so, that's really blowing a Christmas buying opportunity, because there is no way Microsoft can make a Christmas release deadline if manufacturing starts in December. The Xbox Surface would need to start advertising and hype now, not next month.

But it could also be that Microsoft doesn't necessarily want to deal with a Christmas launch and would prefer January/February.

So, what do you think?

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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