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:
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.
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
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]