Microsoft has officially unveiled the Surface, a tablet that features a 10.6-inch high-def touchscreen, a Windows OS, and a lot of unique bits that make it stand out from the rest of the crowd. This isn’t a “hey, we’re finally releasing a Microsoft-branded tablet for the heck of it” deal though. While it’s a significant step for the company (when was the last time MS released their own PC?) as a platform for the yet-to-be-announced Windows 8 OS, this slate ranks high on the interest-meter regardless of the logo etched at the back thanks to a nice mix of good design, features and specs.
So here’s what’s what: The Microsoft Surface will come in two configurations. The first come powered by an ARM processor, and will run a version of Windows 8 called Windows RT. The full details weren’t given out, but it’s a lighter, tablet-friendly version of the OS that features the Windows 8 Metro UI. The second version will offer a full mobile PC experience with an Intel processor (likely an Ivy Bridge Core i5) and the full Windows 8 operating system.
Both tablets share the same design and build though: the 9.3mm-thick Surface comes wrapped in a light magnesium frame (Microsoft calls it VaporMg) that helps keep the weight down to 1.5 pounds (the Windows 8 version is a bit thicker at 13mm). The front is covered by a Gorilla Glass panel that’s optical bonding for better readability. The Intel version will feature a 1920 x 1080 HD resolution, while the ARM-based model’s screen scales down to 1280 x 720.
Just a couple more things that make the package interesting (at least until Microsoft gives out the full details); Microsoft also announced a very slim, 3mm-thick protective cover accessory for the Surface that uses magnets to latch on to the tablet. While it sounds like a copy of the iPad’s Smart Cover, this accessory brings a little bit more to the table besides the ability to fold into a stand: Microsoft’s cover features a touch-based keyboard on the flip-side, basically turning the slate into a really slim laptop.
Release dates haven’t been announced, but the Windows RT version is expected out first sometime this fall in 32GB and 64GB with a price that’s competitive with other ARM-based tablets. Without giving out a definite price, this could fall somewhere around $500 to compete with Apple’s base iPad.
The Windows 8 version will be released three months later in 64GB and 128GB capacities, with a price point somewhere around the ultrabook range of around $1,000.
The Microsoft Surface definitely looks awesome so far. All we need now is a few killer apps (followed by thousands of app options) to make it a must-have. The Windows 8 version looks tempting for PC users though, since the x86 architecture should let it run all but the most hardware-intensive Windows programs.
In the meantime: welcome to the party, Microsoft!
Here’s a trippy preview video, featuring a Surface that struts in slow motion, shiny metal beads, magnetized metal ore, and a subwoof-y track: