June 19, 2012
Microsoft Shows Off The Surface…Of A Tablet By The Same Name
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com
When Microsoft took the stage last night in Los Angeles for their very special event to talk about their “tablet strategy,” it was pretty obvious they´d be announcing their own tablet. After all, All Things D – as they often do – announced as much last Friday.Sure enough, after some brief back-patting, (wherein they boasted their long-tenured legacy as a hardware company“¦) they unveiled the Microsoft Surface. No, not THAT Surface. The new Surface is Microsoft´s very own tablet which not only signifies a strong push towards uniformity in concept and design, it also strongly signifies the possible end of some of their partnerships. Of course, the last part is pure conjecture, but solid conjecture nonetheless.
To begin, the Microsoft Surface comes in 2 different varieties and in two different sizes. Reminiscent to the way they sell their Windows Operating system (Currently they offer Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate) Microsoft said they will offer a Surface for Windows RT and a Surface for Windows 8 Pro.
The inimitable tech blog The Verge was able to get their hands on the tech sheets for these new tablet devices and found the Surface for Windows RT will be powered by an ARM chip and weighs in at 1.5 pounds in a svelte 9.3 mm thin frame. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro, on the other hand, is powered by Intel´s Ivy Bridge processor for a “Full Windows” experience. The latter variant of the Surface weighs 2 pounds and is 13.5 mm thin. Both versions of Surface for Windows feature a Kickstand–complete with satisfying Car-Door-Closing-Click–magnesium case, and will be available in 32 or 64 GB. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro, on the other hand, will be available in a 128 GB version.
Both versions carry the slots and ports people seem to be asking for these days, including USB 2.0 and 3.0 (on the Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro, respectively) as well as microSD and microSDXC, respectively. Those users willing to spring for the Surface for Windows 8 Pro model will also have the added option of a magnetic stylus which will attach to the side of the device.
Speaking of magnets, the Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro will each work with Microsoft´s new Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboards. Think Apple´s Smart Covers, but with keyboards attached. The Type Cover boasts a full, tactile keyboard with the addition of a full touch pad. The Touch Cover also features the same full touch trackpad, but uses a multitouch-style keyboard instead of actual, clicky-key action. Just like the Smart Covers before them, the Type Cover and Touch Cover for Surface attach via magnets on the side of the tablet.
Microsoft´s unveiling of a new piece of hardware is definitely an interesting move, especially since they´ve been pushing to get their partners – Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo – on board with their new Windows RT and Windows 8 operating systems. When asked about this potential rift between the notoriously software-driven company and their hardware partners, Steve Ballmer said they only planned to “prime the pump” for the upcoming release of Windows 8. He also told The Verge the Microsoft Surface for Windows is "an important companion to the whole Windows 8 story. It's an important piece; it's not the only piece."
After Microsoft showed off the device and its accessories – as well as a brief explanation of how much time they spent on making the kickstand sound like a car door – they had nothing else to reveal in the way of pricing or availability. In fact, it wasn´t until after the event that the always-ready team at The Verge was able to get a list of specs. (Still no word on battery life, however.) So, Microsoft´s Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro may be available at some point in the future (presumably “around” the Windows 8 launch for the RT, and “3 months after” for the Pro) at a “competitive” price point.
While we wait for all the unknowns to become known, we´ll be watching those partners responsible for bringing the Windows experience to the masses – Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and the gang – to see what their reaction to this news will be. Perhaps we´ll see some announcements in kind about a sudden switch to Android?