Microsoft announced the new Surface tablet Monday at a press event in Los Angeles, launching a pointed broadside at Apple’s market-share monster the iPad. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described the new device as a “companion hardware innovation” for Windows 8. ”We see a tablet designed the way Windows is designed. A tablet that’s a great PC. A PC that’s a great tablet,” added Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.
The Microsoft team showed off two versions of the Surface: One running Windows RT (i.e. Windows’ as-yet-unreleased tablet-based OS), the other running the as-yet-unreleased Windows 8 Pro. Both will feature a 10.6-inch rectangle display; a built-in “kickstand”; and, most notably, a magnetically-locking 3mm thick cover that also serves as an integrated multi-touch keyboard. (A slightly thicker keyboard that allows for clicking buttons will also be available.) The RT version includes an USB 2.0 input, is 9.3 mm thick, and weighs just under 1.5 pounds. The Pro version is slightly thicker and heavier, with a USB 3.0 input, and is intended to operate as a full PC — i.e. more of a rival to UltraBooks, and Apple’s MacBook Air, than consumer tablets.
Microsoft's keeping its cards close to its chest with this one: while it promises that both the Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro Surface tablets will be priced competitively with rival devices, it doesn't say which rival devices, let alone commit to a price range. We'd expect prices to be similar to high-end Android tablets and, of course, the iPad, even if that means making a loss: as we know from the Xbox, Microsoft isn't afraid to lose money for a long time if that's what it takes to build market share.
The Microsoft Surface release date isn't imminent
The RT Surface tab is due to be released "this fall", with the Surface Pro shipping roughly 90 days later.
Interesting, however weight is going to be a factor. The Surface RT is 676g which works out to almost 1lbs 8oz.; or 1.5lbs. That's a bit heavier than the iPad 2 and can make holding it in one hand for a prolonged period of time a little tiring. If the keyboard / cover can be detached then that should bring down the weight to something more acceptable. Probably priced a around $550.
At 903g (almost 2lbs) I definitely don't want to carry and use the Surface Windows 8 Pro like a typical table with one hand. It makes for an interesting Ultrabook alternative I suppose. I guess in tablet form it can be used to watch movies or read books while commuting around as long as you are sitting or leaning against something so that you can use both hands. Using it one handed will likely be very tiresome unless you want to use it to strengthen your arm while watching a movie or reading. It probably best to alternate which arm is being use so that one does not become monsterously larger than the other. Probably a good idea to drink some Muscle Milk before hand as well.
Productivity wise, 1080p on a 10.6" screen will likely make using Word or Excel a bit uncomfortable since everything will be tiny. I'm sure most people would increase the zoom beyond 100% to make things easier to read.