Microsoft introduced their answer to the new world or Tablet computing today with 'Surface', a family of tablets that is designed to showcase their new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems and hopefully 'prime the pump' for what will be a bold new era in Windows computers. Eschewing the company's usual model of only providing the software while depending on hardware partners to provide the physical machines, Steve Balmer started out the presentation at Los Angeles's 'MILK' Studios by reviewing the company's history of hardware firsts and successes such as the Windows Mouse, Keyboard and Xbox before unveiling the stunning new tablets which feature VaporMG magnesium casings and 'touch' and 'type' covers with built-in keyboards.
The two models of 'Surface' are remarkably similar on the outside but rather different when it comes to operating system and features. Both features a 10.6 inch Gorilla Glass 2 screen with the RT version coming in at 'HD' (probably 1366 x 768) and the Windows 8 Pro version with 'Full HD' (probably 1920 x 1200) resolutions. 'Surface for Windows RT ', the thinner and lighter of the two comes in at 9.3mm thin and 676 grams and will run on the Windows RT operating system. The tablet runs on an ARM processor which is reportedly provided by Nvidia and featurs microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video and a 2x2 MIMO antannae.
'Surface for Windows 8 Pro', slightly larger and thicker comes in at 903 grams and at 13.5mm thick and runs on the full Windows 8 Pro operating system. It is based on an Intel (probably Ivy Bridge) processor and ports include USB 3.0, microSDXC, Mini Display Port and 2x2 MIMO Antennae.
Now the main difference between the two tablets, besides their obvious hardware configurations is the operating system. Windows RT is the scaled down version of Windows 8 that is designed to run on the lower power ARM processors and relies on the 'Metro' touch UI as it's main platform for the user. It does not have backwards compatibility with legacy applications from Windows and can be considered the closest to a pure 'iPad' or 'Android' competitor. While it does have a 'desktop mode' it is more for file management purposes. 'Surface for Windows RT' will come with a special version of Microsoft Office built-in that is designed to work with the Metro UI and be compatible with all your Word, Powerpoing, Excel and OneNote files.
Surface for Windows 8 Pro on the otherhand features the full Windows 8 Pro experience which included backwards compatibility with legacy Windows applications. One should be able to use full versions of all their Windows applications such as the full desktop version of Microsoft Office, games, applications such as Photoshop, Premiere, Wordperfect and anything else you use on your desktop Windows PC at home. It truly will be a full 'PC', but one that whey the keyboard is removed or the 'touch' or 'type' cover is folded away becomes a 'Metro' based tablet similar to the Windows RT model
One of the 'highlights' of the Microsoft event in LA that unveiled the Surface tablets was when they showed their new 'touch' and 'type' covers. These two accessories function as protective covers but also have a keyboard built-in, along with accelerometer. The 'touch cover' is a super thin cover of only 3mm thickness that has a keyboard 'imprint' and promises a typing experience superior to what you would get typing on glass. the 'type cover' on the other hand has a full tactile keyboard that promises a comfortable typing experience with actual physical keys, albeight in a slightly thicker package.
Another highlight has to do with the 'kickstand' that is built-in on both tablets which allow for easy viewing as well as typing on the tablet. The company went to great lengths to emphasize the '3 hinge' design and how the stand was incredibly sturdy when opened yet would 'disappear' when snapped back into place as a tablet. Both designs (the stand and keyboard covers) are probably the most talked about 'innovations' that came out of the even, along with a new term 'VaporMG' which is the process that was used to make the magnesium casings for the tablets.
Pricing wasn't immediately available but was said to be in line with current ARM and Ultrabook pricings depending on model. Availability was estimated to be when Windows 8 rolls out in the fall (October) for the 'Surface for Windows RT' tablets while the 'Surface for Windows Pro' models would follow about 3 months later. So what do you think? Has Microsoft hit it out of the park with these new 'Surface' tablets? Will you buy one? How do they compare to what you've seen from other hardware companies at the recent Computex show in terms of tablet design? Finally...do the 'Surface' tablets make you excited about Windows 8? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments!