First release of Surface tablets to be Wi-Fi-only, sources say

The first release of Microsoft's Surface tablet computers will be Wi-Fi-only, two unnamed sources told the Washington Post.

When the tablets were launched Monday, Microsoft did not say whether the initial release of the Surface tablet on Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro would have cellular connectivity. Officials referred to a shortened spec sheet that left many details about the tablets unclear. The spec sheet lists both models of the Surface tablet as coming with various ports and a 2x2 MIMO antenna. Such antennas can be used in both Wi-Fi and cellular communications. Since the spec sheet was incomplete, it can't be assumed there will be no cellular connectivity, analysts said.

One informed source associated with a chip maker that's likely to provide chips for Surface tablets told Computerworld there wouldn't be a chip for a cellular radio connection in the first release. However, it wasn't clear what other chip makers will do.

The new iPad from Apple has 4G LTE cellular and Wi-Fi connections, although some models are Wi-Fi-only. Analysts for months have noted that Wi-Fi-only models sell better and make up the majority of the market, partly because many users don't want to pay extra for a cellular connection for a tablet as well as a smartphone.

Part of the Verizon Wireless Share Everything plan launching June 28 will allow customers with both tablets and smartphones to share the data service between them. That data sharing plan is expected to encourage interest in more purchases of cellular plans for tablets.

Some analysts say Microsoft will eventually want to offer a tablet with cellular service to expand the locations where the tablets can be used and have Internet access. Since tablets aren't as light and portable as a smartphone, which can be kept in a pants pocket , so users often find them easier to use within Wi-Fi zones in an office, coffee shop or at home.

The Post's sources also said Microsoft is using Pegatron Corp. in Taiwan to manufacture the Surface.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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