Microsoft unveils Surface tablets to rival iPad
Microsoft has unveiled two tablet computers – dubbed Surface – that will run Windows 8.
The company has yet to reveal pricing or release dates for the Microsoft-branded hardware, which will be up against Apple’s market-leading iPad and a slew of Android-based rivals.
Powered by Windows 8, the devices include one running RT on an ARM-based system and one with a third-generation Intel Core processor running Windows 8 Pro.
Microsoft has also taken aim at one perceived weakness in tablets by including a keyboard in the cover, which the company claimed will make input easier.
“Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard,” the company said, adding that the cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector.
According to the company users can also add a 5mm-thick Type Cover that “adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel”.
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Microsoft Surface: the key specs and photos
The devices both feature a full-sized USB port and 16:9 screen, but the Pro version is significantly chunkier.
While the RT model is 9.3mm thick and weighs 676g, the Pro model’s 13.5mm bulk pushes the weight up to 903g. The Pro version will also be configurable to 64GB and 128GB, while the RT will be available with 32GB or 64GB.
It’s unclear which manufacturer will be making the hardware, but Microsoft intends to take a hands-on approach, boasting that the concept was “conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees” and would be helped by “the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware”.
However the initial success of the tablets may well depend on how quickly the company can get them into shops. HP and RIM have both seen their tablets flop, while Android tablets remain marginal despite support from Google.
According to Microsoft, Surface for Windows RT will be launched alongside general availability of Windows 8, while the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. The company said it would be available in US stores first.
Windows 8 is widely expected to arrive by autumn, and analysts warned that missing that timeline could cause trouble for Microsoft.
“MS Surface looks sleek enough as a hardware but will users buy into Metro? If they do Windows Phone will certainly benefit from it,” said Carolina Milanesi, tablet analyst for Gartner on her Twitter feed.
However, she warned that if the hardware isn’t available until after the Christmas shopping window, then it would have handed an advantage to rival manufacturers.
“If this [announcement] was rushed and we won’t see Surface for the holidays Microsoft has shown Google what its tablet needs to beat and gave it time to do it,” she said.