Microsoft Reveal Surface Tablet Running Windows 8

Microsoft have finally Surfaced (pardon the pun) with the unveiling of a new Windows 8 tablet designed to compete against Apple’s ubiquitous iPad.

All versions of the Surface tablet have a 10.6” ClearType widescreen (an improvement over the 9.7” iPad) and a nifty magnetic cover which doubles up as a 3mm thin keyboard (available in 5 colors and includes a trackpad).

Another unique feature is the inclusion of an integrated kickstand to keep it upright if used at a desk – in which guise it looks more like an ultrabook or Mac Book Air rival. There are also front and rear facing cameras (rear facing one is angled to 22 degrees so it’s level when using the kickstand) and dual microphones ‘tuned for Skype’.

No, I don’t know what that means either but Microsoft now own Skype so they may as well plug it…

The casing is made from VaporMg (magnesium base) and the screen is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass (used in some quality smartphones and assumed to be used in iPhone 4 – see comment 2 below for details) so it should be a tough, durable tablet. So far so good.

Windows 8 On Surface

However, Microsoft are well known for confusing people with different versions of Windows. E.g. Windows 7 is available in Starter, Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate flavors – and each of these had a separate alternative N version for the EU market.

Surface is no exception to this rule but, this time, the hardware will also vary depending on which one of two Windows 8 versions it ships with:

Windows RT

RT (aka Windows on ARM) is a version of Windows 8 specifically for ARM (architecture) devices such as tablets. It will not be available to purchase separately by consumers.

Windows RT will only run software from the Windows Store (or included programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). In addition, it can only run Metro-style apps – so you can’t just install existing programs like you would on a laptop.

surface

Windows 8 Pro

This is the full fat version of Windows 8 – the same as the Pro(fessional) version you might buy in the shops.

You should be able to install any standard Windows program (that is compatible with Windows 8) on this. However, W8 Pro requires a lot more power (and therefore weight, size and cost) than RT as you can see from the specs below.

Surface – Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro Specs:

Weight: RT – 676 g, W8 – 903 g

Thickness: RT – 9.3 mm, W8 – 13.5 mm

Storage: RT – 32GB or 64Gb, W8 – 64GB or 128GB

Screen: RT – HD display, W8 – Full HD display

Connections:
RT – microSD, USB2, Micro HD video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
W8 – microSDXC, USB3, Mini Display Port video, 2×2 MIMO antennae

Pricing: Not available – said to be ‘comparable’ to current ARM tablets (RT) and Intel Ultrabooks (W8 Pro) which would suggest prices of around $600 to $1000 maximum.

Launch Date: Later this year – tba

Memory and Processor: tba

Fun At The Surface Tablet Full Presentation

A Microsoft press launch of a new product wouldn’t be the same without a total cock-up. Previous incidents include the infamous blue screen of death appearing during a Bill Gates demo of Windows 98 – and this one is no different ;-)

To be fair, Surface is a prototype device running a beta version of Windows so it perhaps understandable – but still worth enjoying.

The video is 47 minutes long but the fun begins at 13:30 minutes in – after the presenter opens IE you will notice that it freezes the tablet completely, turning it into an expensive (and very embarrassing) brick – albeit an attractive and very thin one.

After some time spent banging at the screen like a demented woodpecker he does the decent thing and, none too subtly, switches to a different tablet at 14:20

I wonder how many other spares he had tucked away just in case…

Will Surface Be A Success?

It’s too early to say whether Surface can prove a serious rival to the iPad – anyone that pretends they can predict the market success of such a device (with some specs yet to be published) is howling at the moon.

However, it does tick many of the right boxes and has an innovative keyboard and kickstand arrangement. It will also appeal to die hard Windows users and, in particular, businesses looking for a tablet that is much easier to assimilate into a Microsoft centric IT ecosystem than Apple’s iPad.

What do you think – would you be interested in buying a Surface (or other Windows 8 tablet) instead of an iPad or Android tab? Let us know in the comments.

[Microsoft Surface website]

7 Responses to: "Microsoft Reveal Surface Tablet Running Windows 8"

  1. Bill says:

    like the keyboard and kickstand idea but W8 has along way to go with an app store – can’t see it catching up with android/ipad apps anytime soon

    if i wanted full windows i’d buy a laptop or netbook. hopefully android tabs will copy the kb/stand ideas though :-)

  2. dex says:

    Thought I’d mention that the iPhone 1 is noted as having gorilla glass, but it isn’t confirmed as being in any other models of the iPhone. While many people assume all models of the iPhone have gorilla glass, it is unverified at this point. Corning lists all the devices that use it’s gorilla glass except for when it has non-disclosure agreements. It does not list the iPhone. This is surprising, as it seems like if the iPhone was using gorilla glass Apple would want Corning to advertise this fact. You could maybe attribute this to Apple’s secretive philosophy when it comes to their devices. (Not announcing products until they are ready, typically not advertising specs on mobile devices such as RAM, etc). They keep their suppliers on a very short leash. With the frequency of mistakes companies make (and the idea that Apple wants to avoid mistakes as much as possible, it makes sense. Think about how often companies mess up and list a product on their website before it is released. Maybe Apple is just trying to avoid any chance of mistakes, and are afraid Corning might do something stupid like adding iPhone 5 to its list before the device is even announced. At any rate, while many speculate iDevices use gorilla glass, this is really unsubstantiated at this point.

    • Roy says:

      Hi Dex, totally agree on the secretive philosophy, all part of Apple’s walled garden.

      Apple published their own job creation report this March mentioning “Corning employees in Kentucky and New York who create the majority of the glass for iPhone” – the report was based on what Apple spent in the US in 2011 so covers the iPhone 4 period – http://www.apple.com/about/job-creation/

      I assume they say ‘majority’ because Corning also have factories outside the US but it does finally confirm Corning are still the supplier.

      I take your point about the absolute verification though as it doesn’t say Gorilla Glass specifically

      • dex says:

        Good point about the job creation report. I hadn’t seen that. However, I guess the distinction is whether the current-gen iPhone has true “Gorilla Glass”, or simply another type of glass manufactured by Corning. I know one time I made the mistake of saying “all iPhones have gorilla glass” on a Android website, and a user pointed out to me that it is unverified. As for the first gen iPhone, I am assuming it used Gorilla glass because it is strongly implied in the Steve Jobs biography (Chapter 36). This is not only based on info from Jobs, but also in interviews with Wendell Weeks (Corning CEO), which is why I consider it verified. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is in every iPhone.

        One theory I have is that the first iPhone was produced with gorilla glass, at least initially. It’s possibly the earliest produced iPhone 1s has gorilla glass and Apple changed to a different glass at some point. As you may recall, the iPhone 1 price was dropped considerably in Sept 2007, perhaps to stimulate demand. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple immediately started looking for ways to lower production costs to maintain the margins they were getting per device. So its possible they decided gorilla glass was one of the components they could sacrifice to make it cheaper.

        It just seems like if the iPhone WAS using gorilla glass, Apple would be mentioning it. It totally fits in with their style of advertising, using terms like “Retina Display”… simply concepts to understand that make the device seem futuristic to consumers.

      • Roy says:

        Your price cut theory seems quite likely – if they dropped Gorilla in favor of lesser glass to increase profit it could explain the secrecy as they wouldn’t want to admit it, just let people go on making assumptions… Naughty Apple if that’s the case ;-)

        I’ve updated the article to clarify that the glass used in 4S is an assumption

  3. dex says:

    I forgot to even type my main reply about Windows Surface lol.

    I will say that, as an Apple shareholder and an iPad user (note I did not say a Mac user), the Windows Surface looks like the first real competitor to the iPad. It looks like a device I may actually consider getting in the future. Of course this is MS we’re talking about, who doesn’t exactly have a very consistent track record of innovative new products. But still, the device looks interesting. I’m typing on my iPad right now, and it is pretty excruciating. If MS pulls this off they will be a true competitor for the iPad. I am a little concerned about the market feasibility of the Surface. I would buy it, yes. But I don’t consider myself representative of most consumers. It seems that with businesses taking the approach of using 10 year old operating systems indefinitely, and non-business consumers taking the approach of completely moving on from personal computers to tablets, I’m not sure where a “hybrid device” like this fits into the equation. I will definitely be watching W8 closely to see how well it does.

    • Roy says:

      Kudos for writing all that on iPad! I guess many iPad users already buy an expensive stand/keyboard combo to make typing easier so Surface has a great concept and you don’t have to carry separate kit around.

      The lid protects the screen too so no need for a sleeve/cover. I agree the market for Surface (and W8 itself) is unclear and it may fall between 2 stools – MS seem to be betting the house on W8/Metro as a cross platform OS to drive sales of both computers and tablets.

      Imho that only works if W8 does well in the PC market but businesses will almost certainly migrate to/stick with W7 and home users faced with W8 may well just install a Metro hack prog to keep a W7 style desktop – could be tough going for MS.

      Many tech blogs certainly anticipate a ME/Vista style disaster for W8 sales but Surface/tablets are an extra market which could make the difference and increase take up of W8 if bought in sufficient numbers – tough ask though against the new iPad…