With an event shrouded in lots of mystery and looking like it was haphazardly arranged (the event was apparently announced very last minute) – Microsoft turned out something quite significant today. Much of the lead-up press for this announcement mentioned a tablet that may, or may not have Windows RT and may, or may not be called Xbox Surface. That was all clarified when a tablet simply named “Surface” was announced.
And, to be sure – this product looks incredible. Based on what I’ve seen so far, this is the product that will fully exploit the promise of the upcoming Windows 8 release. Microsoft needs a something like that to get folks to buy into the “reimagining” of Windows. The most interesting part if it all being that Microsoft is going alone and doing the hardware manufacturing themselves (much like Apple). That’s, however, not the only thing borrowed (and seemingly improved upon) from Apple’s design. So, let’s look a what Microsoft is releasing.
There will be two surface options: One based on ARM running Windows RT and another based on Intel’s Ivy Bridge chipset running the full Windows 8 Pro. The tablets will have 10.6 inch screens and run in at 1.5 and 1.9 pounds for the respective chipset versions. The ARM versions will have memory sizes of 32 GB and 64 GB, while the Intel versions will sport bigger memory sizes of 64 GB and 128 GB.
I like the touch covers. There is a keyboard on both of them (one is tactile and one is a multi-touch). This really takes a tablet cover and makes it more functional. Smart move by Microsoft. Will the covers be a paid accessory (like the iPad)? Probably. I like the included kickstand in the product. As long as it’s not easily broken off, that’s a nice feature too. Being 16:9 is also a smart move for Microsoft – knowing that movies will be watched on these devices a lot.
I don’t like the involvement of a pen. If this is included in the Intel version, magnetic or not, it will be lost pretty quickly. In the announcement it seemed like a large lack of demoing was going on. Was this product too raw to be shown in action? I’ll have to hold out on judging the quality until I get my hands on one.
The crazy part is that Microsoft hasn’t announced availability or pricing (although they say it will be comparable to released models). This lack of details and availability seems to always kill any momentum gained in these kinds of announcements. Apple is often pretty good at saying how much and when something they announce is coming out.
This new tablet should also create some difficulties with OEM partners trying to get into the game (and especially differentiate from the iPad). It’s certainly possible that Microsoft thought this could be the only way to challenge Apple’s tablet. But, it will also likely throw the rest of the Windows 8 tablet pack into fringe territory. Will that really happen? Certainly, time will tell.
Also, I can only think that Microsoft struggled with the branding of this product. Call it an XBox product? Call it Microsoft Tablet? Call it something that’s otherwise recognized? I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for those product meetings. I doubt this name was chosen easily and quickly. So, where the heck is the original Microsoft Surface product? Well, it looks like that’s something called PixelSense and it’s over here. This new Surface tablet has taken over the domain surface.com. Add it all up, and you have a tricky product naming conundrum with customers likely to pay the price.
The question is, as always – are you excited to get one of these?
Here’s a teaser video of the product released by Microsoft after the announcement:
You can catch the entire event here: