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Microsoft launches Surface tablets

For a long time Microsoft has focussed on just making the software and letting other peple make the hardware. They faired pretty well with their peripherals and struck gold with the Xbox, but have also had more than their fair share of failures with the Zune and Kin.

So their announcement that they’ll sell their own Microsoft-branded Windows 8 tablets under the Surface badge is a pretty big deal and a big change in direction.

Of course, being Microsoft, it’s not altogether simple – they’re launching not just one, but two products, both which look pretty much the same – the Surface RT, and the Surface Windows 8 Pro.

The two Surface tablets – Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro

Surface for Windows RT is pretty much a straight iPad alternative that will run Windows 8 apps, but not your full on Windows programs.  It comes in 32GB and 64GB models and is set to be priced competitively against the iPad and ARM-based Android tablets, around $300.

The Pro is a tablet and a Intel PC that will be able to run programs too. It’s available in two flavours; 64GB and 128GB models which will be priced on par with Ultrabook-class PCs – probably $800+. But this one I’m not so excited about. If I want to do some serious work, I’d prefer a laptop with all the connectivity, power and storage I need.

What makes Microsoft Surface different than an iPad?

For starters, it’s got a multi-touch keyboard and trackpad built into Touch Cover so you can type really quickly on it. It’s got a load of built in connectivity, HDMI, microSD and USB 2.0 ports so you can plug things in without needing a load of extra special Apple connectors.

And it’s got Microsoft’s Digital ink technology so drawing and writing is responsive and accurate. Sweet.

The verdict

Umm, well right now, I haven’t actually tried one. But I’ve been playing around with Microsoft’s recent releases, the Windows 8 Beta (which I’m a big fan of) and I’m pretty hooked on my Nokia Lumia 800 Windows 7 Mobile . They’re definitely heading in the right direction with their new consistent GUI across all the platforms.

Good hardware was always going to be the big challenge for Windows 8 so it’s nice to see Microsoft taking on the challenge and (like they did with Xbox) making sure things are built properly.

Ultimately though, I think it’ll come down to price. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich tablets are great and now at less than $200, very affordable. The question will be whether Apple fanboys will continue to pay $500 for their iPads or they’ll see a credible alternative in the Windows Surface tablets.

But yes please, I’d like a Surface.

Microsoft Surface Gallery

Full Surface tablet specs

Surface for Windows RT tablet

  • Processor: NVIDIA Tegra-based ARM chip
  • Weight: 676 grams
  • Thickness: 9.3 millimeters
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD capactive touchpanel
  • Battery: 31.5Wh
  • I/O: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Software: Windows RT + Office Home & Student 2013 RT
  • Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Capacity: 32GB / 64GB
  • Availability: “Around” the Windows 8 launch (fall 2012)
  • Pricing: To be determined

Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge)
  • Weight: 903 grams
  • Thickness: 13.5 millimeters
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD (1080p) capactive touchpanel
  • Battery: 42Wh
  • I/O: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Software: Windows 8 Pro
  • Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand, Pen with Palm Block
  • Capacity: 64GB / 128GB
  • Availability: “Three months after” the Windows 8 launch this fall
  • Pricing: To be determined


Ben Aston

Ben Aston

Ben Aston is a digital project manager and online entrepreneur. He's the founder of Black + White Zebra, an indie media company on a mission to help people and organizations succeed. Ben brings over 15 years of experience in both strategic thinking and tactical implementation from a career at top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, and DDB.

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