Earlier this week Microsoft unveiled its new Surface device, a mobile computer that straddles the divide between laptop and tablet. The announcement that Microsoft had something new to reveal came with much speculation, with tech experts and analysts intrigued by exactly what Microsoft would have to offer. Many guesses it would be a tablet, but none realised exactly what Microsoft would pull out of the bag. Now the surface has been revealed, it’s time to weigh up exactly what the device is capable of, and what this means for Apple and the all-conquering iPad.
Tech Specs of the Surface
The full technical specifications of the Microsoft Surface are not available yet, but there are a few things we do already know about the new device. First of all, there will be two versions, one equipped with an ARM-based chip that will run Windows RT, a special version of Windows 8 that has been tailored specifically for mobile devices. The ARM-based chip Surface will have a USB 2.0 port, and will join the few tablets out there that have USB connectivity. An upgrade version of the Surface will use Windows 8 Professional as its operating system, and will have a USB 3.0 port to speed up transfer times.
Each version of the Surface will have a 10.6-inch-wide HD display, with an aspect ratio of 19:9, making it perfect for watching wide-screen movies in High Definition. The iPad screen is slightly smaller at 9.7-inches, and differs with its 4:3 aspect ratio, however the Surface is not thought to match the super-crisp resolution of the iPad’s Retina display.
As for its size and weight, the Surface is very close to the iPad. The Windows RT version weighs just less than 1.5 pounds, and is 9.3 millimetres thick. The kickstand that pops out of the back of the device is just 0.7 millimetres thick, which allows users to keep the device standing upright. The Windows 8 Pro version will be slightly thicker than the standard model.
The All-Important Keyboard
The big addition that Microsoft has included with the Surface is the keyboard that doubles as a cover. Now, this is not a new concept, as iPad’s and other tablets can be connected to a keyboard to enable traditional typing as opposed to touch-screen typing. The interesting thing is that Microsoft is launching the Surface with a keyboard as standard, something no other tablet manufacturer has done yet. It could be a wise move by the computer giants, tapping into a market that clearly exists and offering a compromise between tablets and laptops that many people would be sure to adopt.
The Surface can be operated completely using the touch screen interface, but if important business strikes and you need to fire up the Office suite to get down to work, the Surface will cope with this well. Just pull out the rubber keyboard, flip out the stand, and the Surface suddenly resembles a laptop much more than it does a tablet. So the Surface could easily become competition for not only the iPad, but also thin laptops like the MacBook Air.
Still a Way to Go for Microsoft
The Surface has received a good response so far, and has even been called a “Game changer” by Silicon Alley Insider, but its place among tablets and laptops is not quite secured yet. While Microsoft leaked rumours and kept the unveiling under close wraps, the amount of information they actually revealed at the press conference was slightly disappointing. For instance, no price was given for how much each version of the Surface will cost. They mentioned it would be priced competitively against other tablets in the market, but no firm figure was revealed. Thin, powerful, laptops that the Surface will be up against range from anywhere between $600 to in excess of $1,200, so people desperate to get their hands on one, whatever the cost, may need to carry out debt consolidation first. With the global economy relatively tough and the market leader Apple selling the iPad at such an aggressive price point it remains to be seen whether cash strapped consumers are prepared to borrow to buy more expensive devices or not. As for when people can actually get their hands on one of these devices, gain no firm date was set. As with Windows 8, no release date has been announced so at the moment it a pure guessing game.
Whether Microsoft’s venture into producing its own tablet will pay off is still up in the air, as they are more accustomed to letting partners like Dell and Hewlett-Packard produce hardware for them. That said, they did manage to pull it off with the Xbox, so keep your eye of the Microsoft Surface, it just might become an iconic device akin to the iPad.