19 Jun Microsoft Tablet Provides a New Digital “Surface” To Play With
An ultra secretive, highly Apple-esque, event in California today revealed Microsoft’s own offering within the tablet market.
The tech giant unveiled two 10.1inch tablets named “Surface”, which CEO Steve Ballmer said would act as the head of a “whole new family of Microsoft Computing devices.” Both tablets run on Windows 8, however the difference comes from the version of Windows 8 that each tablet runs. One tablet will run Windows RT, which uses ARM chips, while the other will run Windows 8 Pro with a X86 architecture.
The Windows RT version of Surface will first be available in 32GB or 64GB versions, and will be priced at the same level as competitive Windows RT tablets from other makers, Microsoft said. The Windows 8 Pro on the other hand will be available three months later in the 64GB or 128GB version, and is expected to sell at the price of ultrabooks. Microsoft offers a full spec sheet for both versions here.
“If you use your PC to design and create things, this is for you,” Ballmer said. “Imagine if we built this so we could use all the apps you’re familiar with.”
One of the defining features of Surface is that it is the first tablet to come with an “ultra rigid” full magnesium case. The tablet also has a built in stand, and comes with two version of attachable Touch covers that double as keyboards. The two keyboards are called a Touch Cover and a Type Cover.
The Touch Cover connects to Surface via magnets on the device’s side much like Apple’s SmartCover for the iPad. When opened up, the inside of the 3mm cover has a full multi-touch keyboard with trackpad, which uses a unique pressure-sensitive technology Microsoft says will allow you to type significantly faster than you can using an on-screen keyboard.
The Type Cover is more for those who prefer the feel of their PC keyboard. This cover has a full track pad with clicking buttons, however it is 2mm thicker than the Touch Cover to account for the space needed for tactile keys.
Other features of the Microsoft tablet is a vent around the perimeter to let off heat (a direct jab at Apple’s “Heatgate” saga with the new iPad). The tablet also uses “digital ink” for a stylus and comes with a magnetic pen which connects to the top of the tablet, a partnership with Netflix and integration of the Xbox network. In fact, you will be able to connect with the Xbox to stream media such as movies.
According to analyst Steven Osinski, a member of the board of the business administration college at San Diego State University, “It seems to me that Microsoft, the sleeping giant, has finally woke up to 2012.” Osinski went further to state that “if Surfaces works as well as Microsoft claims, here’s a product that will give Apple’s iPad a major run for its money.”
This may be quite a optimistic view of whether Surface will succeed in an iPad dominated tablet market. In fact, the iPad is predicted to account for 62.5 percent of global shipments this year, up from 58.2 percent last year in research done by IDC.
Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research, said Microsoft’s focus on trying to best Apple in hardware design could backfire if Surface tablets don’t offer software that stands out. “What they didn’t show were Kinect, SmartGlass and other software assets that could be key differentiators against the iPad,” she said. “The months are ticking by, and the
announcement left more questions than answers about how successful these devices will be.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Time will tell whether Surface will help move Microsoft up a notch in the mobile world or whether it will be banished as a failed product like its iPod competitor Zune.
It seems for the moment that both the Surface Pro and Surface RT will be Wi-Fi only models. (Source: Bloomberg)