Last week, Microsoft announced its entry into the tablet market, the Surface. During the press conference, Microsoft gave few specs and left much to the imagination. Details such as the launch date and pricing were left a mystery. But what we do know makes the Surface a compelling device.
About the Surface
The Surface is part tablet, part ultrabook and very different from the tablets on the market today. This entry into the mobile computing market by Microsoft may give the iPad some serious competition.
The Surface will be available in two models, the Surface RT, which will run the tablet version of Windows 8, called Windows RT, and the Pro Version, which will run Windows 8, the same as the desktop version. Windows RT will be available in 32 GB and 64 GB while the Pro will be available in 64 GB and 128 GB.
Microsoft has included hardware features that will attract those who are looking for a tablet as a laptop replacement. The Surface will have a fully functioning keyboard embedded in its 3 mm thin cover, a kickstand that folds flush, a full-sized USB port, a slot for a micro SD card, and front and rear facing cameras. You will be able to charge your phone from your Surface using the USB port.
The screen is 10.6″, which is larger than the iPad’s screen, and is wider, though not as high as the iPad screen. The Surface is more rectangular, less square than the iPad which gives the keyboard cover a comfortable shape for typing.
My Hands-On Experience
This past weekend, I ventured into the wild and encountered Microsoft’s new Surface. I was able to have a hands-on experience with the tablet that gave me a glimpse of the potential of this new product.
I was fortunate to spot a Surface in a hotel lobby being used by a Microsoft employee I’ll call Mr. Source. At first glance, I thought the tablet was an iPad, but then I saw that he was typing on what looked to be a blue iPad Smart Cover, which piqued my curiosity. When I saw the Windows Logo on the back of the stand, I knew that this must be the Surface.
I approached Mr. Source and asked him about the tablet. I identified myself as a tech journalist and he kindly gave me a quick demo of his Surface RT. He showed me how he could swipe through screens of tiles (app icons) and open them swiftly. A window was open with the Google search home page and he opened a smaller window running Excel stacked on top of the Google window, so he could see both windows at once, similar to a computer screen.
He showed me how the stand folds flush with the back of the tablet. The stand is built-in and sturdy so the Surface can be propped up at a comfortable viewing angle. He also showed me the cover which doubles as a keyboard and can be removed or connected easily. The cover clicks onto the tablet with a solid snap, showing that it won’t separate accidentally.
Saying, “I shouldn’t be doing this,” he handed me the tablet so I could hold it and feel the weight and build of the device. The tablet is solid and substantial. Its corners are squared, not curved and fluid like the iPad’s.
From the feel of the Surface, its build quality and its software, I got the impression that the Surface will be a significant tool for business, content creation and getting work done. While the iPad seems more artful, the Surface seems to be more of a workhorse.
Although Mr. Source wouldn’t allow me to type on the keyboard cover, I had observed him typing on it quickly before I approached. He said he could type on it as fast as a regular keyboard.
He let me touch the keyboard cover so I could feel that the keys were raised. The cover seemed to be made of the same felt-like material as an iPad Smart cover. For people who want the convenience of a tablet but who need a more tactile typing experience than glass provides, the Surface cover may be the solution.
Mr. Source said the price of the Surface RT would be comparable to other tablets, while the price of the Pro version would be comparable to ultrabooks.
He also said that Microsoft knows the date of release but isn’t saying what that is yet. He did say that the date of release for the Surface RT will be the same as the release date of the Windows 8 operating system, with the release of the Surface Pro expected to be about three months later.
Much remains unknown about the Surface. Microsoft has been long on mystery and short on details. This article by Mac Observer shows how little is known about the device: Spec Comparison: Apple’s New iPad vs. Surface by Microsoft
Here is Microsoft’s video introducing the Surface, which doesn’t offer much additional information, but does demonstrate various features of the device:
Two years ago, I was using my brand new iPad in a hotel lobby when an Microsoft employee approached me and asked about the iPad. I showed it to him and answered his questions about it. Tech seems to have come full circle since then.
If you’re looking for a tablet to be a laptop replacement, you may want to wait until the launch of the Surface. Between the smart cover keyboard, the integration with Windows desktop, and the other functional features, the Surface may be just what you’re looking for.
Have you heard about the Surface? Have you been looking for a tablet to replace your laptop? Let us know in the Comments section below!