Surface, the new Microsoft Tablet

20 Jun

Once again I’ve scoured the news releases to bring you all of the information I can find, this time about the new Microsoft Tablet, Surface. Announced in Los Angeles this Monday, it’s made a splash in the hardware market, but there’s more speculation than real facts out there.

So what do we know? There will be be two versions of the Surface, consumer and enterprise. The later is for consumers and the former for the workplace and is called the Surface Pro. The consumer version will release first and the Pro version about 3 months later. There were no prices given for either version, but we’re told they will be priced “comparably” to other devices on the market. The Surface could therefore be priced anywhere from $499 to $829 as Apple’s most basic version of the iPad retails for that much, depending on the model. The Surface Pro will run around $1,000 as that’s what ultrabooks typically run for. Unfortunately for Microsoft, most annalists are saying the same thing, “Microsoft will need to significantly undercut the iPad to be competitive.” (Peter Misek, Jason North, and Billy Kim of Jefferies & Company, Inc)

Surface will run on Windows RT, which is a version of the new Windows 8 specifically made for tablets on an ARM processor in 32- and 64-gigabyte versions. For those of you (like me) who don’t know what that means, I found a fun fact that microchips designed by ARM are inside 95% of the world’s smartphones and tablets. Well, at least we know it’ll work. The full version of Windows 8 will be available on the Surface Pro will in 64- and 128-gigabyte versions, powered by an Intel Core processor.

Both tablets are optimized for Skype and have USB ports which means they will have the ability to connect to a wired Xbox 360 controller, mouse, and even possibly Kinect. So, theoretically, Surface could support the XBLA library or downloadable versions of current games. Assuming Microsoft releases some kind of larger hard drive for the consumer version of the tablet, that is.

My favorite part of Surface is that its cover that doubles as a keyboard and a built-in kickstand. Attaching via a magnetic connector, the cover has a 3mm width that is essentially a touchscreen itself. The Pro version also has a pen that clicks into the tablet which allows users to make handwritten notes on documents (I so want this for work). I hate peripherals that make life easier for device users (the docking station for my smart phone, for example) and aren’t included, because I feel like it’s a money grab from manufacturers. When you buy a Surface, at least you’ll get these two items bundled in.

While Microsoft withheld most of the devices technical specs, they did tell us a little bit about the Surface and the Surface Pro. They will both have a 10.6 inch high-definition touchscreen, front and rear facing cameras all in a 9.3 millimeter, 1.5-pound frame made of magnesium (the Pro version weights a whopping 2 pounds). The aspect ratio  is 16:9, which is suited to watching widescreen video.

The real question, is how does this stack up against Apple’s iPad? While Microsoft failed to answer that question concretely, we do know that the touch screen for the iPad is only 9.7 inches and its aspect ratio is 4:3. The Surface will be compatible with Microsoft Office (something the iPad can’t boast), but since most people use their tablet for recreation anyways, this doesn’t help them too much.

So while we don’t have any real hardware specs, know how long the battery will last, know how much either version will cost, we do know that Microsoft’s tablet will be released online and in Microsoft stores sometime in Autumn. In other words, we know shit all except that they’re releasing a tablet that runs on Windows 8, has a built in keyboard and stands all on its own.

Hopefully it won’t be a complete dude like the Zune, but maybe with Smart Glass in the mix, we’ll be seeing a new innovation in how we connect all our devices together. That’s not to mention how this could effect gaming, but with so little facts out on either Surface or Smart Glass, it’s all just speculation.

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