Leading up to its impromptu press event held in Los Angeles earlier today, Microsoft promised to announce something too big to miss – and as it turns out, it wasn’t joking. At the event, the company unveiled its own branded tablet called “Surface”. You might recall that Surface is already an established name to Microsoft, as it’s been marketing table-top touch surfaces for the past couple of years. It seems that the name was too good to go to waste on a product consumers won’t be touching (no pun, of course), so that’s that.
Tablets aside, the most interesting part of this announcement is that these Surface tablets are Microsoft’s own. We’re not sure who the hardware manufacturers are – yet – but the fact that Microsoft’s name is on these gives us an “about time” feeling. Compared to the iPad, even Android tablets are struggling to make a serious impression, so Microsoft likely had enough and wanted to show the industry – and its supporters – how it’s done.
At launch, there will be a single model available, “Surface for Windows RT”. This is an ARM-based tablet and features a 10.6″ ClearType HD Display, protected by Gorilla Glass, is 9.3mm thick, weighs 676 grams and includes a 31.5 W-h battery. Connections include a microSD slot, USB 2.0, Micro “HD” video and 2×2 MIMO antennae for WiFi. As an RT model, Office 15 Apps will be pre-installed.
Shortly after launch, the “Surface for Windows 8 Pro” model will be released. It features the same display, but “Full HD” rather than just “HD” (we’re not sure what the differences are at this point). It weighs a bit more at 903 grams and is thicker, at 13.5mm. At the same time, it includes a beefier battery, 42 W-h. With this model including an Intel Core third-gen processor, we wouldn’t expect the larger battery to deliver better battery-life over the RT model, but we’d of course expect the performance to be better.
The RT model will be sold with 32GB and 64GB densities, whereas the Pro bumps that to 64GB and 128GB.
Helping set the Surface apart from the rest, both models include a built-in stand for use at the desk. Who uses a tablet at a desk, you ask? With its included “Type Cover”, you’ll have protection for your tablet while on the go, and a keyboard for when you’re sitting down. It’s a really interesting design, and something I didn’t expect to come out of Microsoft’s gates.
Overall, I must say I’m rather impressed with the Surface tablet, at least on paper. I’m really interested to see how it takes off, because Microsoft needs to break through in a market where Apple and Android dominate.