The Surface tablet incorporates the brand of Microsoft’s Surface, a tabletop UI that is regarded as more curiosity than must-have product. But this Surface will compete in a thriving tablet market against the best-selling Apple iPad and numerous Google Android tablets, many of which vary greatly in quality, capabilities, and price.
”With Windows 8, we did not want to leave any scene uncovered,” Ballmer said. “Much like Windows 1.0 we wanted to give Windows 8 our own companion hardware.”Surface for Windows RT will be available in a 32GB and 64GB models and priced in the range of “comparable” tablets, Microsoft said. The professional version will be available in 64GB and 128GB configurations, with prices in the range of Windows-based ultrabooks.
The company gave no details on pricing, except that they would be competitive with comparable ARM tablets and Intel-powered Ultrabooks. They will be on sale online and in Microsoft’s new brick-and-mortar stores in the United States. Microsoft shares rose 0.8 percent in after-hours trading, making up for a 0.6 percent drop to $29.84 in the regular Nasdaq session. Industry watchers were generally impressed by the devices’ specifications, but doubted they were a sure-fire hit. “I don’t see this as an iPad killer, but it has a lot of potential,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at tech research firm Forrester. “This raises more questions than answers. The story that Microsoft told today was incomplete. They focused on the hardware innovation but didn’t talk about the services, the unique Microsoft assets that could make this product amazing.”
Contrary to expectations, Microsoft made no mention of integrating content and features from its top-selling Xbox game console, the Skype video calling service it bought last year, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader, its new partner in the electronic books market. Following Apple Sales of tablets are expected to triple in the next two years, topping 180 million a year in 2013, easily outpacing growth in traditional PCs. Apple has sold 67 million iPads in two years since launch.
Apple, which had direct control of both hardware and software for greater control over the performance of the final product, has revolutionized mobile markets with its smooth, seamless phones and tablets. Rival Google Inc may experiment with a similar approach after buying phone maker Motorola Mobility this year.
Making its own hardware for such an important product is a departure for Microsoft, which based its success on licensing its software to other manufacturers, stressing the importance of “partners” and the Windows “ecosystem.” “The question is why is Microsoft doing it?,” said Michael Silver, an analyst at tech research firm Gartner. “Lack of faith in the OEMs (computer makers)? There’s definite risk here as Microsoft increasingly competes with its customers.” Microsoft stressed that “OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT,” meaning that it would not hold back any features from other hardware makers’ Windows tablets.
When it has ventured into hardware, the Redmond, Washington-based company has had a mixed record. Apart from keyboards and mice, the Xbox game console was its first foray into major manufacturing. That is now a successful business, but only after billions of dollars of investment and overcoming problems with high rates of faulty units - a problem which was nicknamed the “red ring of death” by gamers. The company’s Microsoft-branded Zune music player, a late rival to Apple’s iPod, was not a success and its unpopular Kin phone was taken off the market shortly after introduction. The company killed off a two-screen, slate-style prototype of a tablet device called Courier later that year, saying the technology might emerge in another form later on.
The professional version of the Surface will be launched three months after the Windows RT tablet, Microsoft said. The Surface tablet was designed organically like a book, executives said. The tablets are slim—just 9.3 mm thin on the Windows RT model, and just thick enough for a full-sized USB 2.0 port. The display is large, an optically bonded 10.6 inches wide. According to Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky, who led the design of the device, the edges are bevelled 22 degrees away. The Windows RT tablet weighs in at just 676 grams, or fewer than 1.5 pounds, and is formed from magnesium composite that Microsoft calls “VaporMg.”The professional model will be slightly thicker at 13.5 mm, Microsoft said. It will weigh 903 grams. The heftier dimensions are to accommodate the more powerful Core i5 processor which will be cooled through an array of peripheral vents that Sinofsky promised would not vent hot air onto the user. “You won’t even feel it,” he promised.The professional Surface will also include a large battery
providing 42 Watt-hours in total capacity. The Windows RT tablet’s battery capacity is 31.5 W-h.Surface for Windows 8 Pro will also support digital inking, Sinofsky said, which will allow professional users to add high-resolution markup to Windows 8 software from Autodesk and other vendors, he said.
Both versions of the tablet will include an external HDMI port.
One of Microsoft’s innovations is the TouchCover, which somehow turns blue when connected. The TouchCover, which snaps on with a carefully engineered sound like a car door, is thin at just 3 mm, executives said. A thicker, 5mm TouchCover will also be available for a more natural typing feel.Behind the tablet is a kickstand, which “magically” fades into the tablet when not in use, executives said.