Last week, Microsoft sent out invitations to the press for a surprise announcement to be made on June 18. Microsoft managed to something it really has not done in a decade: drum up excitement and tons of press. Speculation ran from a new XBOX (which would have been announced the week prior, at E3) to an XBOX branded tablet running Windows 8 RT.
Well, the day arrived and the big announcement was…a tablet running Windows 8. Wait, not just one tablet, but two. One will run RT, the other will run Windows 8 Pro. The machines look impressive. The RT device will run a Tegra 3 chip while the Pro tablet will have Intel inside. No word on battery life, availability or pricing (other than ‘competitive with other ARM devices’ for the RT device and ‘competitive with other ultrabooks’ for the Pro version.
So, what will they be called? Surface. Microsoft Surface. A fitting name, I must admit.
Along with the tablets, Microsoft introduced it’s version of the Apple iPad cover. Like the Apple product, these covers will attach to the device magnetically. The difference? An in-built keyboard and touch panel. Called Touch Cover, they will be available in a variety of colors (including Lumia 900 blue.)
The Pro tablet also features, as an option, a pen for making notes on the screen. For storage, the pen attaches just like the cover: magnetically.
During the presentation, Microsoft briefly showed off Netflix for Metro. No other third party apps were shown, but Office 15 will be included with the tablet.
Both versions are sheathed in a Magnesium shell. The design is very clean and angular. The Pro version has ventilation all around the device, so you are never covering up the vents for the Ivy Bridge processor. I’m guessing the RT tablet does not require much ventilation.
Microsoft’s success with the tablet depends on many things: Windows 8, Windows Phone, XBOX and Microsoft itself. How it’s hardware partners take this news is another question. Microsoft has been working closely with Asus, Toshiba and HP with Windows 8 and corresponding tablets. They did not announce who was building this device (Foxconn?) but, I’m sure, those hardware partners probably are not and are not overly happy either. Just a hunch on my part.
So, is it going to be better than iPad? Worse? Well, it needs to be night and day better. I think the Touch Cover and the appearance of the device will be enough to garner attention, but it will be Windows 8 that will make or break the device. Judging from what I have see in Windows 8, I’m not sure the operating system will be the weakness, if any. Ultimately, though, these things need to be cheaper-and better-than iPad. There’s no question they are already better than any Android tablet except, perhaps, the Nook and Fire, which don’t really compete anyway.
This will be one interesting holiday season, to be sure.
Surface tablet key specs