Microsoft on Monday unveiled its first tablets ever, a Windows 8 and a Windows RT machine that are both going to be known henceforward as Microsoft Surface. The name seems awfully familiar not only because an earlier report suggested the product will be called Xbox Surface, but also because the company has coined the “Surface” term long ago, although at the time it described a touch-based product that was about the same size of a tablet.
We have recently wondered what operating system the new Microsoft tablet will run, as some sources suggested the device may not be a Windows RT / Windows 8 product since it’s too early in the game to unveil such a device – Windows 8 is expected to become official at some point this fall, with the first Windows 8 tablets manufactured by third party OEMs to hit stores by Christmas or thereafter. But Microsoft made it clear from the start of the media event, the Surface is a Windows-based product.
Surface appears to be a new flagship device for Mircrosoft, a company best known for its software dominance in the PC operating system business, but also for its console gaming hardware such as the popular Xbox and the Kinect. But more importantly, the Surface is Microsoft’s own Nexus-like device, a tablet meant to show the world, and Microsoft’s Windows 8 PC-making partners, how Windows on a tablet should look and feel like.
Surface also appears to be a high-end tablet meant to compete directly against the iPad and the most important Android tablets out there from various manufacturers, unlike the Google Nexus 7 that’s supposed to be a very affordable device meant to take on directly the unexpectedly popular (at least for Google and its Android tablet-making partners) Amazon Kindle Fire.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the main characteristics of the device, its release dates and pricing.
Here are the main specs and features of the two Surface kinds, Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro:
Microsoft’s execs demoed the product on stage emphasizing its most important features and the design challenges they had to go through to produce this tablet. The device looks, at least on paper, and in the images and video the company showed, like a worthy iPad rival, and certainly a tablet that could become a tough Android tablet competitor in the months to come. But on the other hand, and most importantly, the Surface may become a Windows RT / Windows 8 tablet competitor and therefore cannibalize on sales from Windows partners, something that may not necessarily suit the needs of the company.
Unlike Windows Phones, which are yet to become a worthy third player in the smartphone business, Windows 8 may become a lot more popular as a tablet OS. The only thing we don’t know at this point is how reliable the new software will be on tablets, and wether users will enjoy a Metro UI-based Windows 8 tablet as much as they appreciate other tablet designs.
The Surface, while interesting enough for tablet fans, will not be available in stores for quite a while now. The company revealed that it took a lot of time to design it – we kind of appreciate the fact that the device was not leaked in the past months – and it will take a lot of time to see it in stores. Unfortunately Microsoft is not ready yet to share actual launch details and pricing details for the Surface at this time, but the execs mentioned more than once the fact that the device will be priced quite competitively, or better said, the two Surface versions, ARM-based and Intel-based, will each come with competitive prices compared to their direct rivals.
The ARM model is said “to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet” and it will be available in store at the same time Windows 8 launches. The Intel model will be a bit more expensive with a price comparable to Ultrabook-class PCs, which are generally more expensive than traditional laptops. The Intel model will also be available only later down the road, around 90 days after the ARM-based Surface hits stores. If I’m reading correctly between the lines the Windows RT will be the really affordable version, but then again if you want Office 15 and other perks the Windows 8 Pro model will offer then you’ll have to be ready to shell out more dollars for it.
With that in mind, it’s probably safe to say that this winter we’ll have quite a lot of tablets fighting for the cash of the consumer including the iPad, the iPad mini (if certain rumors are to be believed), the Google Nexus 7, the Amazon Kindle Fires (more than one model, again if certain rumors are to be believed), various flagship Android tablets from important Android makers, the Microsoft Surface models, and various other Windows-based tablets coming from other OEMs.
What tablet are you buying this year?
LOS ANGELES — June 18, 2012 — Today at an event in Hollywood, Microsoft unveiled Surface: PCs built to be the ultimate stage for Windows. Company executives showed two Windows tablets and accessories that feature significant advances in industrial design and attention to detail. Surface is designed to seamlessly transition between consumption and creation, without compromise. It delivers the power of amazing software with Windows and the feel of premium hardware in one exciting experience.
Surface: A New Family of PCs for Windows
June 19, 2012
Conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware, Surface is designed to seamlessly transition between consumption and creation, without compromise.
Advances in Industrial Design
Conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware, Surface represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity. Extensive investment in industrial design and real user experience includes the following highlights:
Software takes center stage: Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out.
VaporMg: The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.
Integrated Kickstand: The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.
Touch Cover: The 3 mm Touch Cover represents a step forward in human-computer interface. Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. It will be available in a selection of vibrant colors. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.
An Amazing Windows Experience
Two models of Surface will be available: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT, and one with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro. From the fast and fluid interface, to the ease of connecting you to the people, information and apps that users care about most, Surface will be a premium way to experience all that Windows has to offer. Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.
Contributing to an Expanded Ecosystem
One of the strengths of Windows is its extensive ecosystem of software and hardware partners, delivering selection and choice that makes a customer’s Windows experience uniquely their own. This continues with Surface. Microsoft is delivering a unique contribution to an already strong and growing ecosystem of functional and stylish devices delivered by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bring the experience of Windows to consumers and businesses around the globe.
Additional Product Information
Surface for Windows RT
OS: Windows RT
Light(1): 676 g
Thin(2): 9.3 mm
Clear: 10.6” ClearType HD Display
Energized: 31.5 W-h
Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Light(1): 903 g
Thin(2): 13.5 mm
Clear: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display
Energized: 42 W-h
Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB
(1), (2). Actual size and weight of the device may vary due to configuration and manufacturing process.
Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.
For more information about Surface, visit http://www.surface.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Some information relates to a prerelease product, which may be substantially modified before it is commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here.