Microsoft Surface is a line of tablet computers designed and marketed by Microsoft. The Surface will be available in two versions, one that runs Windows RT and one that runs Windows 8 operating systems. Microsoft has announced that different versions will be available featuring ARM and Intel CPUs.
Hands-on with Microsoft Surface for Windows RT, Touch Cover and Type Cover (update: video!)
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The new tablet comes at a watershed moment for Microsoft. The company is poised to bring out Windows 8, a touch-friendly operating system built around dynamic tiles that is supposed to work equally well on more traditional personal computers and tablets. "There's a lot of change coming in this version of Windows, some of it very exciting," says Michael Cherry, analyst with the independent Directions on Microsoft research firm. "I think it's going to take time to cope with the level of change that's occurring."
Although the Surface looks like an elegant device, Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps criticized Microsoft for not using attention focused on Monday's announcement to highlight some of the reasons that it might be a better option than the iPad. For instance, she thinks Microsoft could have shown how its video calling service, Skype, will work on Surface or how people might be able to use its motion-control sensor, Kinect, on the tablet.
Microsoft's tablets take two tacks: the Windows RT versions only run apps for Metro, while the Windows 8 tablets run older Windows applications as well. The RT Surface tablets have to build a convincing catalog of apps, while the Windows 8 tablets need to make sure that older applications are updated to run well on newer touch-driven software. Windows 7 tablets faced that same usability gulf when running pre-existing software, and the results often weren't pretty.
Surface will come in two flavors: Surface with Windows RT and Surface Pro with Windows 8 Pro. Windows RT is the version of Windows 8 designed for ARM processors; it includes the new touch-friendly Metro-style interface, as well as a limited version of the traditional Windows desktop for running Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office.
Surface tablets with Windows RT will include a micros slot, USB 2.0, and a Micro HD port. The devices will weigh about 1.5 pounds and be about 0.36-inches thick. Microsoft did not say which processor the Windows RT device would have, but did say the tablets will come with your choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage.
Microsoft unveils 'Surface' tablet computer
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The software maker said Monday that its device will attach to a removable rubberized keyboard that also acts like a book cover. CEO Steve Ballmer said Surface will be an entertainment device "without compromising the productivity that PCs are uniquely known for."
Yet Microsoft claims that the keyboard's software is sophisticated enough to allow touch typers to rest their fingers on the home keys, and it says the Surface will know the difference between a keystroke and a resting finger. That's not possible when typing on glass, the current standard for mobile device touchscreens.
The company on Monday unveiled the Surface, a PC tablet that runs a yet-to-be released version of its Windows operating system called Windows 8. The device is the first commercial PC that Microsoft has directly designed and sold.
The tablet features many of the now-standard tablet specs, including a 10.6 inch high-definition touchscreen and front and rear facing cameras, which all fit into a 9.3 millimeter, 1.5-pound frame.
But Surface also brings some new innovations to the tablet space. The device's cover, for instance, flips down to become a full keyboard. It features a rigid case built from magnesium, a pen that clicks into the tablet and a built-in kickstand.
Staying with the RT tablet, it seems it's for anyone who's been waiting very patiently to pay iPad prices for the Windows environment on a tablet, even if that Windows environment is about as familiar to most users as the roster of names on Greenland's soccer team. But you do get a pretty cool keyboard as part of the deal -- maybe. It wasn't completely clear if the keyboard cover would be an added accessory or included in the price of the tablet.
Microsoft is taking a huge leap with a mobile-friendly tablet, built on its new Window 8 operating system, which rolls out this fall. The Microsoft Surface Pro and RT tablets will be designed in-house. The company is stepping into the tablet market at a critical juncture when growth in PC sales is slowing and consumer interest in iPads is soaring.