Microsoft has upstaged Google, now you don’t hear that too often anymore. Rumours about the new 7” tablet produced by Google in partnership with Asus have been all over the web for months. Only last week the details were confirmed and we expect to see the $250 so-called iPad killer by the end of the month. But just as consumers were getting excited about that, Microsoft comes in from left field to shock us with their in-house developed ‘Surface’ tablets.
The Surface tablets feature 10.6-inch touch-screens wrapped in a magnesium case that Microsoft calls VaporMg. The distinctive feature of the new tablets is a magnetically-attached, 3mm-thich Touch Cover that folds down and functions as a full touchscreen keyboard.
This stylish looking keyboard could be vital in attracting iPad users to the ‘Surface’. Certainly laptop sales have been suffering recently with web surfers choosing tablets instead but you can’t really type much on a touchscreen and keyboard accessories for both iPads and Android tablets to date have been a little clunky. The ‘Surface’ if it works well could be a viable alternative to a laptop, plus it has the benefit of an operating system that the world knows and loves.
The Surface tablets will be available in two distinct versions. The Windows RT version – which is effectively the “light” version of Windows 8 – will launch with Windows 8 in the autumn. Approximately 90 days later, a “Surface Pro” version of the tablet will follow. The Pro will offer the full Windows 8 OS running on a beefier Intel Ivy Bridge CPU (the same chips found in ultrabooks and other laptops).
Microsoft says pricing information will be available closer to availability, but that it will be comparable to competing tablets (for the RT version) and ultrabook laptops (for the Pro version). What this means is hard to say but it is likely to be far pricier than the much anticipated Google Nexus tablet which is expected to be pre-loaded with the new Chrome mobile browser.
Initial reviews from journalists at the launch in LA are sceptical. They were barely allowed handle the devices and said it was heavier and thicker than the iPad. The innovative built-in kickstand that allows you to sit the tablet upright was also labelled as ‘unintuitive’. However none of these reviewers got a proper look at how the device actually works and what the apps are like, so the jury’s still out for now.
It is still a significant move for Microsoft and along with the rumoured Facebook phone, possibly a sign that Apple’s profits are tempting everyone to enter the hardware space. The slick promo below doesn’t give much away, but it looks pretty cool.