If you’re this side of the Atlantic and went to bed at a sensible hour last night, you’ll have missed the ‘live’ coverage of the announcement of Microsoft Surface. I say “live”, as live as a live blog with constantly-uploaded photos can get. Speculation had been growing since Microsoft announced the event and the smart money was correctly placed on Microsoft revealing a tablet. And indeed, a tablet was revealed… or a family of tablets to be precise.

This morning you’ll have no problem finding articles and opinions about Surface, but here’s the highlights:

  • Two options – Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro
  • Super thin magnesium case – 9.3 mm and 13.5 mm, 676 g and 903 g
  • 10.6 inch display (funny how every other factor is specified in metric) featuring Gorilla Glass
  • microSD card support
  • Built-in kick-stand with precision-engineered hinges which are “like the doors on a high-end car”
  • 32 and 64 gb options for the Windows RT model, 64 and 128 gb for the Windows 8 Pro model
  • The Windows 8 Pro model has 3rd generation i5 chips
  • Two digitisers, one for touch, one for digital ink – it recognises the proximity of the pen and stops taking touch inputs

As much as I could deduce from the ‘live’ commentary, the big “ooooh” moment was the cover. Steven Sinofsky (President of the Windows Division) showed the cover with its magnetic connector and the reporter from The Verge commented “oh boy, this looks familiar” – no doubt eluding to the not-dissimilar iPad cover. But then Sinofsky revealed that the wafer-thin cover was also a multi-touch keyboard. The next comment on The Verge was “wow, this is slick as hell”. From what I could gather there’s two cover options – the Touch Cover (3 mm thick) and a slightly thicker (5 mm) Type Cover which includes a trackpad and moving keys.

I don’t have any other details at this time, so please refer to surface.com where more details will appear as they become available. Apologies but comments are switched off.

Written by Darren

Darren Adams works for Microsoft as a Global Account Technology Strategist. In a former life he worked for the Lotus brand within IBM for many years. Married with one daughter and two dogs, and lives in Camberley (Surrey, England). That's it really.

This article has 6 comments

    • Darren

      Talking of iShiny, I was a bit annoyed by the BBC News because they basically wrote an article that was about how this compares to an iPad… like that’s the only reason anyone would produce a tablet, so it can compete with the iPad. Mind you, I used to get annoyed with the amount of Microsoft coverage on the Beeb, but I’ve got over that now.

      • Paul

        The iPad is the market leader. Microsoft have spent several years pushing the ‘Metro’ design principle into it’s product to combat iOS. Microsoft completely failed in the tablet market and Apple took the market away from it. The refocusing we’re seeing in Windows is due to Apple’s dominance in this market sector. So why would you not mention it in a review? Microsoft, IBM, Oracle etc, get little coverage because the majority of people simply don’t care about your Business products.

        But on to the tablet. It’s interesting. It’s not that innovative, but neither was the iPad, so that shouldn’t be held against it. The cover is a nice addition but there’s already iPad covers that are keyboards and the hinge has already been done. (and remember the old roll-up keyboards of the 90s?) But in this and the product overall, Microsoft seem to have finally realised that OEMs, the source of their original power, are in the age of ‘Bring Your Own’, helping to kill your products because of the quality of the hardware doesn’t stack up to Apple. Taking ownership of the entire product allows you to build-in quality. This tablet is undoubtably well built. The new cover is more than a sum of it’s parts, it’s a quality well-designed product. Whatever people may say about the Metro interface, it is extremely slick and way above the ‘quality’ (and I really do use that term lightly) of old Microsoft’s design. It’s through good design that Microsoft will earn it’s way back to where it once one (rather than getting to that position simply by default as they did in the 80s).

        Frankly, working in education, we’ve been crying out for TabletPCs. In fact I have two in my draw. We want them because increasingly we interact with vast amounts of electronic content using an interface that’s less optimal than the paper it replaced. The pen to paper interface is quicker than typing feedback using ‘track changes’ in Office. But in the modern world, it’s simply not feasible to mark paper anymore. We take over 150,000 submissions electronically each year because students want to submit from anywhere. So tablet PCs should be the answer. But it was the quality of OEM’s ‘TabletPCs’ that stopped the form-factor from gaining any market penetration. They used the bare minimum spec required to run the OS. Everything else on them ran slowly, not helped by the ‘OEM bloat’ every Windows PC suffers from. So from my perspective, a good quality, quick, light, pen-driven tablet is just what’s needed for our market.

        One big concern I have though is the OEM market. The fact that Microsoft has had to produce Windows RT for low-spec hardware, means that there’s still a requirement from OEMs to produce a decent spec’d PC. I can’t see how Microsoft can keep OEM’s on board and restrict them to only producing laptops. So they’ll have to let OEMs produce tablets. Once that happens, companies will start to buy through their existing OEM suppliers and if he OEM has cut the quality again, the poor reputation of Tablet PCs will continue, and Apple will continue to dominate the market.

        But I’m starting to really like Microsoft’s bold Metro-based developments. I really hope it’s successful, just like I really hope Windows phone becomes successful, so that Apple have more competition.

        • Darren

          Thanks Paul, almost a blog post in its own right :-)

          You are correct of course, it’s the iPad’s dominance that fuels the interest and sets the benchmark. I just get annoyed sometimes when they don’t talk about a product on its own merits.

          I have an Acer tablet (W500) which is nice quality if you look at it on its own, but doesn’t compare when you put it alongside one of the new Samsung tablets. However, one is £450 and the other is (I think) about £800. I asked Samsung if they thought the price would come down as the market gathers volume and components (such as SSDs) become cheaper… yes was the reply, which is good as £800 at the moment is a big investment (most expensive iPad is £659). Someone commented that Microsoft have an ability to offer at a low price by including a Windows license (a price OEMs have to pass on) and potentially including Office to make an attractive inclusive proposition. Well, we’ll have to wait and see when the pricing is announced.

  1. Jason Hook

    I like the idea of the keyboard but in practice it will be as awful as the bluetooth keyboard is for the iPad.

    The surface needs to be fun to use (and not Windows like) and have a slick, well populated, application store. Does Microsoft have the will to do it properly and for the long term?

    • Darren

      I guess the success of the app store relies on the number of developers investing time and effort… and the quality and range of the apps. The basic message is that there’s hundreds of millions of Windows users, and if you’re looking to put an app into the app store that’s your potential market in a few years’ time. Even before Windows 8 has shipped there’s new apps appearing in the store every day, and updates becoming available. There are a lot of game and news apps, but I’m starting to see other stuff appear such as Tweetro (guess what that does), FlipToast (that’s Twitter and Facebook on one), National Rail Enquiries, WikiPedia, CineTrailer (movie news and trailers)… loads of others.