- 20 June 2012
- By John Howell
Microsoft has surprised the industry and consumers alike with two new "Surface" PC tablets designed to take on the extremely popular iPad and less popular Android tablets. While managing to keep the launch and their creation extremely secret, Microsoft has come up with impressive, original designs which show a lot of promise.
They are, dare I say it, "innovative". Hopefully Apple won't sue me for using the word or try and sue Microsoft for the tablets themselves.
One tablet runs Windows RT (a version of Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 designed to run on low powered ARM processors) and a slightly thicker, but fully featured tablet, which runs on Windows Pro and Intel chips, and can therefore run full scale Windows OS applications such as Photoshop.
An impressive feature is an included 3mm "touch" keyboard cover. Using unique pressure-sensitive technology, the Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard (at least that's what Microsoft claims anyway). Available in a variety of colours, the Touch Cover clicks onto Surface tablets via a built-in magnetic connector. Just imagine Apple's Smart Cover, but with a very thin keyboard and trackpad. There's also a 5mm Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.
Apart from the Touch/Type Covers and being able to run a full Windows OS on a tablet (a feat in itself), other advantages of Microsoft's new surface tablets include a carefully integrated kick stand (nice idea!) and a digital pen with a palm block. Handwriting recognition here we come. They demonstrated adding handwritten notes to a PDF document at the launch. The digital pen magnetically locks onto the tablets side when not in use.
Apart from the ill-fated Zune music player, the XBox, and a few keyboard and mice, this is one of the few Microsoft hardware products to see the light of day and easily the most significant Microsoft announcement for some time. The first Surface tablet with Windows RT will arrive when Windows 8 is officially released, most likely in August. The second fully featured Surface Windows Pro version (which is the one I'll buy I think) arrives around December/January.
You can find out more at the Microsoft Surface website.
Here are the tablet specs included in the press release:
Surface for Windows RT
OS: Windows RT
Light: 676 g
Thin: 9.3 mm
Clear: 10.6" Clear Type HD Display
Energized: 31.5 W-h
Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Office '15' Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Light: 903 g
Thin: 13.5 mm
Clear: 10.6" ClearType Full HD Display (1900 x 1200)
Energized: 42 W-h
Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB
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