Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft's Surface tablets to come in Windows RT / Windows 8 flavors

We now know what Microsoft had up its sleeve for its super-secret Monday afternoon "major announcement" event. It may have been a secret, but we were all good guessers: Microsoft's announcement was regarding its own branded Windows 8 / RT tablet called Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft Surface will run either Windows 8 OR Windows RT (Windows 8 on ARM). The hardware options will dictate that, actually, with one type of Surface PC using Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge chipset running Windows 8, and another type of Surface PC using an NVIDIA ARM chipset and Windows RT.

If you think Microsoft hasn't at least tried to do this right, you'd be wrong. The specs, look, and design of the device rival the iPad, which is precisely the target of the Surface.

For example, the rear-facing "LifeCam" is angled to 22 degrees. This was done so users can flip out the built-in Surface Kickstand and record events hands-free.

In addition, the Windows RT Surface tablet is just 9.3mm thick, weighs only 1.5lbs, and sports a 10.6-inch display, so that there is no question that it exceeds the "DOA" measurement once posited by Steve Jobs for tablets. Microsoft also claims that its Surface is the first PC with a vapor-deposited (PVD) magnesium (AKA VaporMg) case. The Windows RT version will ship in 32GB or 64GB versions, with pricing competitive with other ARM tablets.

The Windows 8 version is thicker, but it’s also a complete Windows PC capable of running older Windows software. Size-wise, it checks in at just under 14 millimeters and less than two pounds. Microsoft said that the Windows 8 version will ship with higher storage capacities than the ARM version (64GB, 128GB), adding also that this version will be competitively priced with an Intel Ultrabook-class PC.

Both tablets also support pen-based input.

Meanwhile, if, prior to today, you thought that Apple and its Smart Cover were the only clever tablet cover system on the block, you will now have to change your mind. Microsoft's Surface cover, the Touch Cover, goes beyond the Smart Cover. A magnetically attached cover akin to the iPad's, it's more than just protection. Despite adding only 3mm of thickness to the device, it serves as multi-touch keyboard and trackpad.

Those who find typing on glass frustrating can take heart at the statement by Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, who said when introducing the product, "typing is twice as efficient as typing on glass." Five colors round out the Touch Cover's specs.

If you want the clickety-clack and physical movement of a full keyboard, you can get that, too. Microsoft also introduced the Type Cover, which is really just a slimmed-down version of a full keyboard with actual moving keys, and even actual moving buttons on the trackpad. You pay for it with extra thickness, as it is 5mm thick, 2mm more than the Touch Cover.

We're sure you'll pay for it with extra cost, as well, although Microsoft did not reveal any pricing for these accessories.

Naturally, aside from the still unannounced "how much," another question is "when?" Microsoft said that Surface for Windows RT will release at the same time as Windows 8, and the full Windows 8 Professional model will be available about 90 days later (which could mean 2013, and miss the holiday shopping season).

Both models will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.

More detailed specs, from Microsoft's press release, are available below.

Admittedly, and at first glance, these tablets are impressive. Pricing as well as availability of software will make a huge difference in sales, particularly in terms of poaching iPad sales.

If Microsoft wants these to be a success, it might need to lose some money on each device. We'll see how far Microsoft goes in an attempt to break into tablets.

You can view a promo video below.

Detailed Specs:

Surface for Windows RT

OS: Windows RT
Light: 676 g
Thin: 9.3 mm
Clear: 10.6” ClearType HD Display
Energized: 31.5 W-h
Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB

Surface for Windows 8 Pro

OS: Windows 8 Pro
Light: 903 g
Thin: 13.5 mm
Clear: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display
Energized: 42 W-h
Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB

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