Microsoft Finally Scratches the Tablet “Surface”


Apparently all you need to do to generate the same kind of enthusiasm and anticipation that Apple manages to muster is to come from out of nowhere (seemingly) and make the announcement that nobody was expecting. Sure we knew that Windows 8 would be seen on a tablet, but we really had no strong inkling that the tablet would be Microsoft branded hardware.

The Surface could very well be the first force Apple truly has to reckon with in the corporate market, with Microsoft offering two versions of the tablet: one running Windows RT and the other Windows 8 Pro.

The differences between the two tablet models are somewhat subtle. The Windows RT model runs on the Nvidia and is a little lighter and a little thinner while the Windows 8 Pro model packs a little more punch, giving you more memory (up to 128GB!) along with USB 3.0. Both units have a 10.6″ HD screen, showing Microsoft agrees with Apple’s decision on form factor.

Another interesting features is the built-in kickstand and magnetic cover, which also acts as a touch keyboard for the Surface. While the knee-jerk reaction may be to say that the kickstand concept is a little cheesy, when combined with the front keyboard cover it makes complete sense. Not only does it eliminate the need for an additional stand-style case, but it gives an apparent perfect angle for typing at and on.

The Surface features some of the fine finishings that could make Apple more than a little envious. Things like separate digitizers that ensure a stylus near the screen is picked up while a hand nearby is not recognized as input.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer promised that the Surface would “be priced like comparable tablets” while repeating that there would be “no compromises” with the company’s tablet. With Windows still enjoying a fair amount of the corporate platform market-share, Apple has to be hoping that something about today’s announcement amounts to over-promising and under-delivering.

There are so many questions left to answer. Will developers embrace it? Knowing the high recreational appear of the iPad, can the Surface win over users that only want to carry a single device between home and the office? Will they learn from the mistakes of other tablets that came before them? Will Windows 8 be everything Microsoft users were hoping for in a next generation operating system (or will the standard ‘wait for at least one major service pack before adopting a major Microsoft product’ apply)? Will the highly successful xBox 360 somehow give Microsoft a leg up on the mobile gaming market that Apple has dominated so far?

So when can you get your hands on one? Good question. No price or solid release date has us guessing that the Surface will rival the iPad’s price-tag and hit consumer hands in the second half of the year around the time Windows 8 is expected to ship.

About Jillian: A professional. A geek. Writer. Music fanatic. Creative. Thoughtful. Programmer. Educated. Outgoing. Thrill seeker. Realistic. Optimist. Clever. Sarcastic. Not typical. Contact me on Twitter: @codeGoddess

  • araczynski

    tell me it supports a bluetooth/usb mouse and i’m all ears.

    • Captain ZADL

      On the Intel version I see no reason why not.

  • Captain ZADL

    OK, A for effort, but it looks like it’s a Google Nexus type of product, i.e. a hardware reference platform for other vendors. Also the lack of pricing and the 6 month delay for release means tons of hype with no actual product. 

    Still though, looks pretty cool. 

  • nd1090

    I suspect that the differences between the Pro version and the ARM version are a bit more than “a little more punch”. Just to give you an idea – my old Dell Vostro running an old Core 2 processor (4 generations old) running Chrome smokes my iPad2 on really heavy web sites over the same wifi network by a factor of over 2. Imagine that same thing with a much newer processor and GPU. That’s a real hot-rod over there. 

    Also – it likely has more memory – but the 128GB reference is for storage, not memory. One suspects that the Windows RT version will have 1 or 2 GB of memory (the new iPad has 1GB) – but the Pro version will likely be 4GB – 8GB. 

    You really need to think of the Pro version as a really light MacBook Air with touch screen that can run Windows legacy app library. It is really something we do not have anything to compare to at the moment. It is the first tablet computer that can be used for heavy content creation not just consumption.

    This is where Microsoft really separate themselves from Apple – there is no artificial separation between PC and touch screen. Apple will get there as well, at some point, they will just kill MacOS and update iOS to handle heavy-lifting – but they have a lot of work to get there. 

    The funny thing is that this is exactly what happened 30 years ago – Apple had a brand-new form factor with the MacOS but with no support for the legacy software of the Apple II – and later they killed the Apple II – where Microsoft built GUI on top of DOS, just as they build touch now on top of the old Desktop.

    Last – both the RT and the Pro versions have USB ports – and there is no need to suspect it will not support mice, keyboards and tons of other peripherals – the NVidia has enough CPU power to handle it – and the Intel version we know does it all the time.