Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and a number of his associates took to the stage in L.A. yesterday to reveal the cards they’d been playing so closely to their chests. The company has unveiled a new platform to the market in the shape of the first fully-formed Windows 8 tablet PCs ever, dubbed Microsoft Surface.
When Windows 8 adopted a Metro UI, much in the same fashion as its latest mobile operating system, people immediately spotted the potential for its applications as a tablet OS. With talk of Microsoft branded tablets floating around for months, it’s exciting to finally see such talk culminate in an actual product, and best of all, it looks good.
The keynote revealed not one, but two iterations of the company’s new Surface tabs, or Surfaces as they’re also known; one running the lighter Windows RT and the other more powerful version offering up the full Windows 8 experience. Of course Microsoft was eager to show off the fruits of their labour and it was all about the hardware. In comparison, Windows 8 as an operating system is old news, but Microsoft branded hardware which receives this much attention is of great significance.
The top tier, Windows 8 Pro-capable Surface utilises a 10.6-inch ClearType Full 1080pHD display, surrounded by a Magnesium VaporMg case which undergoes unique production methods to allow for super thin (down to 0.65mm) yet super strong construction, resulting in the tablet being 9.3mm thick. Add to that an integrated kickstand and you have one of the lightest, thinnest fully capable PCs around.
Of course Microsoft didn’t stop there and in addition to classic touchscreen input offered by Surface, the company has also created the two iPad-style magnetically attached covers. Having said that, both the Touch Cover and the Type Cover offer more functionality than Apple’s Smart Covers or Smart Cases ever have. By leaving the in-built kickstand to worry about propping the Surface up, both covers can feature full QWERTY keyboards and trackpads, with the Touch Cover offering the slimmest typeable experience available and the Type Cover providing a more classic typing experience with its scissor action keyboard.
The last thing to mention is the variation. Although the Windows 8 capable device was the star of the show, Microsoft will also be releasing a less demanding Surface, running Windows RT; a re-sculpted version of the OS that’s more au fait with ARM-based processor architecture.
The RT Surface will feature 32GB/64GB capacities to the Windows 8’s 64GB/128GB, microSD and USB 2.0 support to the latter’s microSDXC and USB 3.0 support. In place of the ARM-based Tegra chip in the RT iteration, the fully-fledged Windows 8 Pro variant will be able to utilise a 3rd-generation Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) processor.
Microsoft appears to be changing the entire face of its business on both the hardware and software front, changing how we perceive the modern desktop/mobile computer. What’s next is uncertain but we’ve certainly had our interest piqued, now all Microsoft have to do is convince consumers that they’re a serious challenger to Apple and we’ll be seriously blown away.