Microsoft unveils Surface tablet to rival iPad

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 |

On a wonderfully bright Monday afternoon in Hollywood, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s (MSFT) chief executive officer, appeared at an art and film studio to deliver what looks like Microsoft’s finest, most controversial product in ages. In fact, it’s a family of products—a line of “Surface” tablet computers aimed at both consumers and workers.

Windows RT

  • OS: Windows RT
  • Weight: 676 g
  • Thickness: 9.3 mm
  • Display: 10.6” ClearType HD Display
  • Battery: 31.5 W-h
  • Ports: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Features: Office Home & Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Possible configurations: 32 GB, 64 GB

14 520x318 Here are the specs of Microsofts Surface tablets

Windows 8 Pro

  • OS: Windows 8 Pro
  • Weight: 903 g
  • Thickness: 13.5 mm
  • Display: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display
  • Battery: 42 W-h
  • Ports: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Features: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block, VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Possible configurations: 64 GB, 128 GB
Screen Shot 2012 06 18 at 8.07.17 PM 520x343 Here are the specs of Microsofts Surface tablets
Balmer himself said that “Windows is the heart and soul of Microsoft,” and followed that up with some impressive stats: there are over “1 billions PCs out there, and that includes embedded machines and workstations.” Later on, Balmer threw a gut punch at OEMs, stating that: “we believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when hardware and software are considered together.”
Screen Shot 2012 06 18 at 8.04.30 PM 520x413 Here are the specs of Microsofts Surface tablets
From Steve Balmer:
“Much like Windows 1 needed the mouse, we wanted to give Windows 8 it’s own hardware. What is it? It’s something new. Something different. A whole new family of computing devices from Microsoft.
We had previously heard word that Microsoft would reveal a partnership with Bares & Noble in competition against the likes of Amazon, but then news surfaced earlier today that the Nook creator / book retailer isn’t involved in Microsoft’s plans at all.
The atmosphere alone of this event has left mixed impressions on its attendees. This is the first of two events to be held by Microsoft this week, the second of which will be held in San Francisco, and will concern Windows Phone. It’s supposed to be about the future of the phone line. We are reading that to likely be a preview or an early build of Windows Phone 8. We’ll bring you that news as it comes.

As it does with the Xbox, Microsoft has opted to make the Surface tablets—both hardware and software—on its own. This stands as a huge affront to Microsoft’s longtime PC partners. Making matters worse, the Surface products look far better than anything else the PC makers have shown to date on the tablet front. Even Apple (AAPL) has been put on notice, if the hoots and hollers from the event were any indication.
The first Surface device shown weighs about 1.5 pounds and is 9 mm thick. A second, the Surface Pro, is slightly thicker and heavier. Both tablets come with a built-in kickstand, so you can stand them up to watch movies and the like. Microsoft also did something innovative with its new tablet covers. It had them attach to the the tablets with a firm click and designed them to be keyboards. The Type Cover has keys printed into the cover while the slightly bigger Touch Cover has raised keys.
The keyboard/cover combo is a fantastic idea that immediately makes you question future laptop purchases. That’s yet a further blow against Microsoft’s PC buddies. When Windows 8 launches this fall, Microsoft will sell the tablets through its own online and retail stores and nowhere else. The company declined to reveal pricing details at the June 18 event.
In an interview afterward, Ballmer said Microsoft’s PC partners had been made aware of its plans. When asked to describe how they felt about Microsoft’s moves, Ballmer responded that he had used very precise language on stage and would not go beyond that. (He said nothing on stage that I recall as to how they felt.) As for plans to sell the tablets beyond Microsoft’s own channels, Ballmer again would not budge. “That’s all we are going to announce today,” he said. That’s that, then.
During his speech, Ballmer talked about the push and pull of software and hardware: Sometimes the hardware makers can’t keep up with the software makers’ innovation. So Microsoft decided to take matters into its own hands and showcase all that Windows 8 can do at a time when the company is feeling tremendous pressure from Apple. “This is a tool to surface your passions,” Ballmer said.
Steven Sinofsky, the head of Windows, followed Ballmer on stage and was visibly nervous. His voice shook, as did his hands—to the point that he wrecked a couple of touchscreen demos. Still, he returned again and again to the industrial design work Microsoft did to make the Surface products. Gushing about the kickstand, he said: “The hinged design is like that of the finest luxury car.” About the cover, he said, “Click. You heard that. It’s solid. It feels great in your hand, like a book. It just fits there.”
Microsoft designed 200 custom parts for the tablets and said that if you tried to cram a piece of sticky tape inside the device, it would bulge with imperfection. Steve Jobs would be proud.