Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled a suite of new hardware products today, led by a signature Microsoft Surface tablet that will compete directly with Apple's iPad.
The tablet, powered by Windows 8, is a hair thinner than the 9.4 mm iPad 3. It's screen, at 10.6-inches, has a full inch on the iPad's. It also sports a USB 2 port, and is compatible with a magnetized stylus that uses digital ink.
The best: The two standout features of the Surface are a full-sized, multitouch keyboard with trackpad that also doubles as the device's case, and a built-in kickstand for hands-free use.
Although only a few in attendance have had the chance to test out the device, the presentation was impressive and garnered a healthy amount of positive commentary on Twitter and elsewhere.
This is incredible and amazing. Microsoft's presentation is showing level of hardware perfection we see with only one other company in tech— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) June 18, 2012
I now have hope for Windows 8. I am really excited MS showed a keyboard today and didn't keep pushing touchscreen only #microsoftmystery— Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) June 19, 2012
The rest: Microsoft also introduced a Pro version of the Surface for professionals that features a higher-res display and greater processing power, as well as the Touch Cover, a full trackpad keyboard with clickable buttons that snaps onto the tablet. The keyboard, which is available in five colors, was designed "organically, like a book," said Panos Panay, Microsoft's designer of products. It can also distinguish between hands that are at rest and typing by measuring the pressure exerted on the keyboard.
The touch-sensitive keyboard doesn't interpret hand resting as typing—they've measured the pressure by grams to get it right on— Austin Carr (@AustinCarr) June 18, 2012
The price of the tablet was not announced at the event, but Windows president Steven Sinofsky did say the 32GB and 64GB versions of the Surface will be priced competitively to other ARM tablets. The release date is also unconfirmed.
Late last week, a handful of tech reporters (including Fast Company's Austin Carr) were invited to today's event in Los Angeles, which was shrouded in the kind of mystique normally associated with an Apple keynote. Even the exact location of the presentation was kept secret until just hours prior to the kick-off. Showmanship and attention to design detail notwithstanding, Surface is unlikely to flatten the Apple's iPad anytime soon. But Microsoft still has a lot to gain from being in second place.
Specs and Features
OS: Windows RT
Weight: 676 grams
Profile: 9.3 mm
Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD
Ports: microSD, USB 2.0
WiFi: 2x2 MIMO Antennae
Software: Microsoft Office
Memory: 32 GB or 64 GB
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Weight: 903 grams
Profile: 13.5 mm
Display: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD
Ports: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort
WiFi: 2x2 MIMO Antennae
Video: Mini DisplayPort Video
Software: Not shown
Memory: 64 GB or 128 GB