Microsoft Surface Windows 8 tablet
Last night Microsoft unveiled Surface, the first Windows 8 tablet. It's already being touted as something special, with more connectivity and a better keyboard solution than most tablets on the market. But has the Windows touch interface grown up enough to tackle the big boys?
What is the Microsoft Surface tablet?
Microsoft Surface is the first own-branded Windows 8 tablet to be released by Microsoft. The global manufacturer could have partnered with many brands to deliver a device, but preferred to produce their own hardware to ensure that it integrated properly with the new Windows 8 'Metro' style software and interface. This is a similar move to when they released their own-brand games consoles, the best-selling XBox and XBox 360.
Watch the video to get a quick glimpse
You'll see a lot of excitement around this device as it promises to deliver on a business front in a way that many other tablets have failed to do, due to the full integration of Microsoft document editing software, a pretty snazzy keyboard attachment and USB ports for your PC mouse and hard drive.
By offering two separate solutions, a Pro device for business users and a consumer option, we think Microsoft are attempting to please the corporate market while hopefully still offering you and I a content eco system full of apps and games to play with.
What are the Microsoft Surface specifications?
Two versions of Surface will be available, both models sharing alot of similarities. Both will have an awesome kickstand built into the device, a stylish vapour-deposited (PVD) magnesium ‘scratchproof’ case, MicroSD slot, full USB slots and a 10.6" HD display.
Surface will be running two versions of Microsoft’s soon to be released, latest incarnation of Windows; Windows 8 and ‘RT’. Both 8 and RT will have its own specific tablet-centric interface with Metro. If you’re familiar with Windows Phone 7, you’ll find the new versions of Windows very similar indeed.
The Windows RT Surface tablet will be just 9.3mm thin, weigh 676 grams, have USB 2.0 compatibility for peripherals like your mouse and keyboard, plus MicroSD and HDMI connectors. 32GB or 64GB models will be available. Not much is known about the touchscreen yet, other than that it uses 'ClearType' technology, which we hope to learn more about soon.
The Windows 8 Pro tablet will be 13.5mm thick and weigh 903 grams, with a powerful Intel i5 core processor, USB 3.0, MiniDisplay port and a Full HD Cleartype display. The Pro model also comes with a digital pen with ‘Palm Block.’ The distance between the screen and the stylus is just 0.7mm, which will allow for the pen to be extremely accurate; making you feel like the pen is actually writing on the glass. It won't recognize hand inputs (meaning you won't accidentally move the screen around with your palm) and is designed to give a realistic writing experience.
Both models have been designed with durability in mind; the magnesium case will be by Microsoft’s own assessment ‘scratchproof.’ They have however, recognised that despite this people will want a case. Enter the Touch and the Type covers. Both cases will be available upon launch in a variety of colours. The touch case is amazingly thin but will be twice as accurate as typing on a screen. The Type cover gives those of us who prefer the feel of actual keys the option of doing so. Both covers will be attached by magnets to the tablet with no wires involved with an actual trackpad on both giving a PC-like experience.
How much will the Surface tablet cost?
While pricing at this point is unknown, it is not unreasonable to expect the Windows RT version to perhaps look to jump in at the ~£400 price point to compete with the key players in the tablet arena, with the Pro version expected to be priced to compete with laptops.
Microsoft are really pushing to make the Surface tablet a true rival to both laptops and tablets. Productivity is the key, whereas tablets are by large part designed for consuming media - watching films, playing games and using apps. Surface is looking to fulfil the dream of being able to get the best of both worlds - work and play on the go.
One key area which will make Surface extremely attractive to people is that it is a full version of Windows. Surface will run apps like your computer, so that you don't have to compromise by using less powerful "tablet apps". While it remains to be seen how well these apps will work in practice, from the demonstrations at last night's event they do look extremely impressive.
Some details are still to be cleared up, most notably pricing and availability. At present the Windows RT version is headed for an autumn release date, with the Pro perhaps slipping into the New Year. The Microsoft Surface has already made a lot of noise and has got people paying attention. Will this be the next revolution in the tablet world? Will this finally turn tablets into a real viable alternative to the tried and true PC? I think it's just possible.