Microsoft unveils Surface
First the murmurs around a complete rehaul in strategy with Windows 8, followed by some exciting and extensive changes with the Xbox Smartglass and finally the unveiling of its new tablet device – Microsoft Surface. Seems like a calculated bigger picture strategy from Microsoft (as one would expect) then a series of unrelated launches and announcements. Seems like Microsoft is planning to make a comeback strike right into the heart of the tablet market. The tablet market overall is cluttered in my view with an abundance of devices and suppliers- but only a few (iPad takes the majority lead followed by Kindle and Samsung at a distant second and third spot). And even then, the iPad soars far ahead of its competitors in this space.
Firstly, what is Microsoft Surface?
On a wonderfully bright Monday afternoon in Hollywood, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, appeared at an art and film studio to deliver what looks like Microsoft’s finest and 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.
The market will decide whether the new Surface is a hit, but it has the look of one — and it flies in the face of 35 years of partnerships with other companies, of putting Microsoft’s software on other companies’ computers.
One version of the device, which won’t go on sale until sometime in the fall, is 9.3 millimeter thick and works on the Windows RT operating system. It comes with a kickstand to hold it upright and a touch keyboard cover that snaps on using magnets. The device weighs under 1.5 pounds and will cost about as much as other tablet computers.
Its debut is set to coincide with the upcoming fall release of Microsoft’s much-anticipated Windows 8 operating system.
A slightly thicker version –still less than 14 millimeters thick and under 2 pounds — will work on Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 Pro operating system and cost as much as an Ultrabook, the company said. The pro version comes with a stylus that allows users to make handwritten notes on documents such as PDF files.
Each tablet comes with a keyboard cover that is just 3 millimeters thick. The kickstand for both tablets was just 0.7 millimeters thick, less than the thickness of a credit card.
The integrated look and feel is an exciting move from Microsoft, and while those who own an iPad, have happily purchased the wireless keypad that goes with it, this sort of integration means that Microsoft believes that the future of the PC is a hybrid of a mobile tablet device.
Something that is reminiscent but with a twist are the magnetic smart covers to go with the Surface tablets. The covers appear very similar in basic function to Apple’s smart covers, but the twist comes with a virtual keyboard on the Touch Cover and a tactile keyboard on the Type Cover.
In addition to both multi-touch and pen inputs it also uses thin covers that double as ultraslim multitouch keyboards, complete with clickable trackpads. The devices also sport standard USB and HDMI ports and card slots; you can dock the senior Surface tablet to a keyboard and screen when you get to your desk and use it as a conventional desktop PC.
There will be two models of the Surface, one that is powered by an ARM processor and runs on Microsoft’s upcoming tablet-based Windows RT operating system, and a more powerful version that runs on an Intel i5 processor that works with the Windows 8 desktop OS. The Windows RT version will come in two storage capacities, 32 gigabytes and 64 gigabytes.
The convergence with the launch of a new Microsoft OS- the Windows 8 (touted to be unlike anything ever seen before by Microsoft and unlike any other Windows update to date) as well as the launch of the new Xbox AND the launch of new tablet and mobile devices this could be a turning point for Microsoft if Surface manages to gain some sort of critical mass and Windows 8 lives up to expectations.
What do you think of Microsoft Surfaces potential?
Prashant Harish Hari