Eye on Microsoft

About this Blog: This is Shane O'Neill's blog about Microsoft's corporate strategy and its various software and services — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Eye on Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Tablet a Bold Break with Tradition

With the historic but risky Surface Tablets, Microsoft now has its own iPad. But is Microsoft cut out to be like Apple?

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A mysterious product announcement, secret invites to the media, days of speculation.

Must be Apple, right?

No, this time it was Microsoft. That's right, the slow pokes from Redmond just surprised us (kind of) by announcing Surface, a Microsoft-branded Windows tablet with a 10.6-inch screen designed to work as both tablet and PC. It will come in a version running Windows RT as well as a business-oriented version running Windows 8 Pro.

Taking a page out of the Apple playbook, Microsoft led an enquiring technorati down the rabbit hole to announce on Monday what most had been speculating: A Microsoft-branded tablet.

From the secrecy surrounding the announcement to the device itself, the Surface is a break with tradition. Microsoft has never manufactured a device that runs the Windows client OS; its success has come through developing software that runs on hardware from partners like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo.

But with Surface, Microsoft has its own iPad.

The Surface device has a built-in kickstand on the back of the tablet to prop it up. A Touch Cover has the dual purpose of protecting the screen and also serving as a fully functional keyboard with a built-in trackpad when opened up.

In Pictures: Microsoft Surface: ' A PC, a Tablet and New'

Based on first looks, the Surface is an audacious move for Microsoft. It will be entering a competitive market alone and will risk alienating hardware partners -- which, let's face it, could become a big problem. If Surface does catch on, won't OEM devices become more undesirable?

Clearly, Microsoft thinks it can knock the iPad off the hill by itself. Android-based tablets have hardly made a dent in the iPad's dominance and Microsoft deserves a shot at the title. It could not beat Apple at its own game with MP3 players (Zune anyone?), but Microsoft is giving it another go with Surface, this time with more planning, determination and a much bigger base of established users.

No availability or pricing was announced, but Microsoft did say in a release that "suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC."

In other words, don't expect the Surface to, um, surface until the fall when Windows 8 is scheduled to launch.

Here's a quick list of specs for the new Microsoft Surface tablets.

Windows RT Version Specs

  • 1.5 lbs
  • 0.37 inch thick
  • 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
  • 31.5 hours of battery life
  • CPU -- Nvidia Tegra 3
  • microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
  • Office Home and Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type Cover
  • VaporMg Case and Stand
  • Configurable for 32GB, 64GB

Windows 8 Pro Specs

  • 2 lbs
  • 0.53 inch thick
  • 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD Display
  • 42 hours of battery life
  • CPU -- Intel Core i5
  • microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
  • Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
  • VaporMg Case and Stand
  • Configurable for 64GB, 128GB

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