In an attempt to take on Apple’s juggernaut iPad, Microsoft has unveiled the Surface tablet in two incarnations: the RT and the Pro.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the Surface at a Los Angeles press conference on Monday. The tablet will be part of the launch for Windows 8, the company’s upcoming operating system. Windows 8 is expected to hit the market in the fall.
“We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects of the experience, hardware and software, are considered and working together,” Ballmer said. “We wanted to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovation.”
Microsoft originally introduced something called the Surface in 2008. It was a multi-touch computer that worked out to be quite large, about the size of a coffee table in fact. It was built for professional use, for the most part, and was put to work in hotels and retail stores. That commercial computing platform is now called the Microsoft PixelSense. Moving that to the tablet incarnation has been the product of many years of attempting to lock in to the consumer hardware market, where Microsoft has traditionally batted about .500.
Obviously Microsoft has seen considerable success with hardware like the Xbox, but the Zune was a poor attempt to zoom in on the popularity of MP3 players. The Kin mobile phone, too, was a failure.
Microsoft is hoping that the Surface changes those fortunes. The plan is to zero in on the iPad and take it on directly, although that could be an uphill climb. Many companies have tried – and subsequently failed – to take on Apple’s magical device. Microsoft certainly has its work cut out for it if it attempts to change the tablet tide in any significant way. They’ve dipped their proverbial toes in these waters before, but the Surface is certainly the most concrete effort to date.
The Surface tablet for RT weighs 676 grams and is just 9.3 millimetres thick. It has a 10.6 inch screen with ClearType HD display and includes a kickstand and magnetic cover that doubles as a touchscreen keyboard. It includes USB 2.0, Micro HD, and microSD connectivity options and 2×2 MIMO antennas for WiFi capability. The RT Surface runs on on NVidia’s ARM processor and will come in 32GB and 64Gb versions.
There’s also a Surface tablet for Windows 8 Pro which is heavier at 903 grams and thicker at 13.5 millimetres. It features the same size screen, but the specifications state that it also includes Full HD and USB 3.0 to go with the aforementioned features. The Pro version also includes a pen input. The Pro tablet runs on Intel’s Ivy Bridge processor with an i5 core and comes in 64 GB and 128 GB versions.
Is there anything that separates the Surface from the surge of other tablet entries from non-Apple companies? That’s hard to say without actually experiencing the device. While there has been a long list of potential combatants in the much-ballyhooed tablet wars, the battle predicted has been little more than an extensive series of skirmishes thus far as consumers largely flock to the iPad. The Surface could change that, but it wouldn’t be advisable to hold one’s breath.