What Is Microsoft Surface?
Microsoft doesn’t want to take any chances with Windows 8—if it’s going to be the best tablet OS ever, it’s going to need some serious hardware. So Microsoft is getting serious and building its own tablet. Meet Surface.
The Microsoft Surface is a tablet and a PC at the same time…
Microsoft’s home cooked tablet is a very thin cookie: the non-Pro version is only 9.3mm thick (a little less than the iPad), 1.5 pounds (a little more than iPad), and packs a 10.6-inch, 16:9 “ClearType” 1920 x 1080 display, available with either 32 or 64 GB of storage. ClearType is definitely aiming for a Retina connotation, although Microsoft’s screen falls short of Apple’s 264 pixels per inch at 208.
Inside, Surface packs tablet standards like front and rear-facing cameras, an SD slot, and a full-sized USB port, along with some neat tricks: magnesium casing, DisplayPort out, Gorilla Glass, a kickstand (hmm) and a subtle groove around the entirety of the device to help keep the Pro version cool. Microsoft also claims Surface will have the best Wi-Fi reception of any tablet, ever, with 2×2 MIMO antennae—in plain english, wireless antennae that are harder to block while you’re holding the thing.
…that comes in two versions…
This is an Ugh!/Yeah! depending on who you are, but Surface, like everything Windows, will come in two flavors. The aforementioned super-skinny variant runs Windows RT on an ARM processor (like the one in your phone, or most other tablets), while the Pro copy runs an Ivy Bridge Core i5 x86 processor, USB 3.0, and other ultrabook-y specs. It’ll be a little thicker (13.5mm) and heavier, though not by much. The Pro Surface will be available with either 64 or 128 GB of storage.
…and runs Windows 8…
Surface is designed specifically for Windows 8’s best tricks: it’ll support semantic zoom (awesome!), a stylus (not awesome!), while providing a perfectly superflat frame for the perfectly superflat Metro UI.
It’ll also runOnly the Pro version will run the standard Windows desktop, the full OS, meaning requisite software like Office and Photoshop are on the go with you. The RT brother will only roll with Metro “apps,” meaning tablet standards like Netflix. The Pro should be the best of both computing worlds, we’d hope.
…and uses one of the coolest accessories we’ve ever seen.
The Surface can be paired with a magnetic cover, just like the iPad’s. They come in a Crayola box of colors, just like the iPad’s. But the Surface’s cover also doubles as a full, extremely thin keyboard and multitouch trackpad, whereas the iPad’s is just… a cover. This is a brilliant move on Microsoft’s part—one of the most clever things it’s ever squeezed out, and something that instantly makes Surface one of the most exciting devices we’ve eyed in some time. Not just another black rectangle.
Unfortunately, no word on pricing (beyond a meaningless claim of “competitive”). Expect to pay tablet-ish prices for the RT version, laptop prices for the Pro version—probably right around the MacBook Air. As far as availability, we only know the RT will launch alongside Windows 8, and the Ivy Bridge super-version 90 days later. Hey look, a company that isn’t Apple just built something awesome.
[Source: What Is Microsoft Surface?]
Microsoft threw one hell of a party tonight; its pair of Microsoft Surface devices could be one of the biggest jumps forward in product design in recent memory. Could, because there’s still so much we don’t know. And Microsoft’s not sharing.
Is Surface a revolutionary tablet/laptop/wunderkind? We won’t know for sure until we get answers to these five unfinished pieces of business.
Is mobile data built in?
One point that went glaringly omitted during tonight’s presentation: data. Specifically, will either the RT or Intel version of Microsoft Surface come in a 4G edition? Wi-Fi is fine for most, but if you’re pushing the business angle—which Microsoft very vocally was—online anywhere becomes incredibly important.
What about the specs that matter?
Storage is one thing. RAM, processor speed, and battery life are entirely another. Those are the things that most affect your computing experience. How well does it multitask? How fast does it run? How long will it last? Microsoft didn’t include any of those three in its spec sheet, and declined to answer when asked directly. That’s not a good sign.
How much does it cost?
Microsoft execs hinted at the prices of both the RT and Intel models of Surface, saying that they would be “competitive” with the market. Let’s assume that “the market” means “the iPad,” which puts the ARM-based surface at around $600. But the x86 Surface doesn’t really have a clear correlation, other than maybe the MacBook Air and other Core i5 ultrabooks, which puts it anywhere from $1000 on up.
So why not just say that? Because Surface isn’t coming out for months and months. Announcing a price now would leave Apple and the rest of the tablet hardware makers plenty of time to undercut.
When is it available?
We know that the ARM version of Surface will touch down concurrently with Windows 8, and that the Intel version will follow three thereafter. Which would be incredibly helpful if we knew when Windows 8 is launching. It’s certainly close enough to finished, but all indications have pointed to October for final release. Which is (see above!) a long, long way away, in tech years.
Does that keyboard case even work?
Then there’s maybe the most disconcerting open question: does this thing work? Sure the display looks great and the demos were mostly smooth, but in hands on sessions immediately following the event that super-futuristic, ultraflat keyboard case was strictly look, don’t type. That’s going to be Surface’s biggest selling point, and it’s clearly not ready yet for primetime. Will it ever be?
The one thing we do know is that Surface has a boatload of promise. It’s exciting, it’s the future, and unlike previous Microsoft tablet promises, it’s got enough muscle behind it to avoid the vaporware pile. But that’s a far cry from living up to expectations. And the sooner we fill in these blanks, the sooner we’ll be able set ours.