Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced two new computing tablets during a live presentation last week at Milk Studios, in Los Angeles.
“This is the new Microsoft Surface. It embodies the new notion of hardware and software really pushing each other,” announced Ballmer, while holding one of the new Surface tablets.
A “tablet that’s a great PC a PC that’s a great tablet,” is how Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division, described the new Surface tablet.
Yours truly was caught up in all the excitement while watching one of the many live blogging events taking place on the Internet as the presentation commenced.
The new Microsoft Surface tablet comes in two model types.
The operating systems used are the Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro, respectively.
Both Surface tablets feature connection to an attachable, 1/8-inch thin, pressure-sensitive keyboard called the Surface Touch Cover, which doubles as the tablet’s casing cover. This keyboard/casing cover is available in five colors.
The Surface Touch Cover communicates with the Surface tablet using a Bluetooth wireless connection, and clicks into the Surface tablet using a built-in magnetic connector.
TechCrunch obtained unique access to the Surface for Windows RT tablet, and reported the Surface touch keyboard has a “soft rubbery feeling” and that “the keys don’t compress when you touch them.” I personally would prefer a more traditional keyboard that provides some tactile feedback while typing.
The flat, glass keyboard, like what is used on the iPad, is good enough for short notes and messaging, however, yours truly could never get used to typing long emails, or a lot of content (like this column) on a totally flat surface display keyboard.
The two Surface tablets also include touch and gesture recognition interfaces.
A kickstand for tilt-display screen viewing is included with the tablet case.
The Microsoft Surface has two built-in LifeCam cameras; front and rear-facing, along with stereo speakers, and dual microphones.
The Surface tablet includes access to Window applications for music, video, and multimedia interactivity.
The Surface tablet is protected by a scratch-resistant casing that Microsoft calls a precision crafted Vapor Mg (pronounced Vapor-Mag).
Vapor Mg uses a combination of magnesium alloy and a special process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a high polished metal finish.
Microsoft is also using Corning’s Gorilla Glass on the Surface tablet’s display screen.
While the two surface models appear similar on the outside, there are some differences.
The Surface for Windows RT tablet weighs roughly 1.5 pounds, is less than one-half-inch thick, and runs on the Tegra-based ARM processor chip.
The ARM acronym comes from Advanced RISC Machine, and RISC means Reduced Instruction Set Computer.
ARM is the architecture of the processor.
Many mobile computing devices and tablets today use ARM technology.
A 10.6-inch ClearType HD touchpanel display screen is used on the Surface for Windows RT tablet.
The Surface for Windows RT tablet includes Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview programs.
The Surface for Windows RT Input/output ports include: Micro SD (Secure Digital) memory expansion slot, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, and a 2x2 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antenna, and USB 2.0 port.
Storage can be configured in either a 32GB or 64GB capacity.
The Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet weighs about 2 pounds, is a little over a half-inch thick, and uses the Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) processor, and USB 3.0 port.
Other Input Output ports include: Micro SDXC (Secure Digital eXtra Capacity) flash memory, USB 3.0, Mini Display Port Video, and 2x2 MIMO antenna.
On this model, one is able to use a digital pen for writing or drawing directly on its 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display.
The Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet offers storage choices of 64 or 128GB.
No word was given by Microsoft during the announcement on how long the two Surface tablets would last using battery power.
Forrester Research analyst Sarah Epps said this about the Microsoft Surface announcement, “Hardware is only part of the dynamic. They need to explain how Microsoft manufacturing this device will change people’s experience with a tablet.”
Microsoft, to its credit, has found success with one gaming hardware device (which is more or less a personal computer), the Xbox 360 console.
It remains far too early to predict whether Microsoft’s Surface tablets will become a serious challenger against the iPad.
The Microsoft Surface for Windows RT tablet becomes available in stores this fall.
The Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet will become available reportedly 90 days later.
No pricing was released for either Surface tablet model although Microsoft did say they expect them to be competitive with comparable ARM tablets or Intel Ultrabook-class personal computers.
More information about the Microsoft Surface tablets can be found at http://www.surface.com.