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On Monday, Microsoft revealed its own tablet, the Microsoft Surface, in effort to take on Apple and Google, who have been dominating the white-hot tablet space for some time. Microsoft may be a little late to the party, but its product stands out from other offerings with a built-in kickstand and keyboard cover.
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<![endif]--><!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->The cover of the device will serve as a full keyboard and attach with a magnetic edge, similar to the iPad’s Smart Cover. It also has a built-in kickstand, CNET reported, to make it easier to hold and use. There are two versions of the cover – thin and thick – depending on how you prefer your keyboard.
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images - Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shows the new Surface tablet during a news conference at Milk Studios on June 18 in
The language on the official Surface page (which seems to be a strategic shot at Apple; the company has long been criticized for being better at consuming content than creating it) reads, “From touch to type, office to living room, from your screen to the big screen, you can see more, share more, and do more with Surface. Create, collaborate, and get stuff done with Office. Explore your world with fast, fluid Windows 8 apps. Discover new music, movies, and games in the Windows Store.”
While introducing the device, Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said it would offer “Windows without compromise.”
“We control it all, we design it all, we manufacture it all ourselves,” Ballmer said, while discussing Microsoft’s hardware history.
Surface is actually two different products. First up will be the Surface for Windows RT, due to be released late this year in conjunction with the release of Windows 8. The RT device is a consumer device similar to the iPad and will also run NVidia’s ARM processor. About three months later, Microsoft is planning to release the Surface for Windows 8, which will run an
Although the Surface looks like a pretty sleek device, Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps thinks Microsoft should have done a better job highlighting some of the reasons that it is a better option than the iPad. For example, she thinks Microsoft could have shown how Skype will work on Surface, or how people might be able to use the motion-control sensor, Kinect, on the tablet.
"I am excited about this product, but it felt like Microsoft was pulling punches with this announcement," Epps said. "Hardware is only part of the dynamic. They need to explain how Microsoft manufacturing this device will change people's experience with a tablet."
According to Anthony Wing Kosner, a contributor for Forbes, here are the ways Microsoft is trying to capitalize on Apple’s possible weak points with the introduction of Surface:
1. Appeal to Gamers: The Xbox is a serious gaming platform, but the iPad is not. Microsoft is betting that if they can quickly introduce a consumer tablet that can drive a big screen and be a gameplay companion through SmartGlass, they can capture the attention of their existing Xbox customers. As a side benefit, Microsoft could make inroads into the casual game market as well directly through the new device.
2. Appeal to Cord Cutters: There is an opportunity for Microsoft, which has been making streaming deals with Netflix, Hulu, and ESPN through Xbox, to quickly emerge as a cable alternative, complete with a portable viewer and a fully featured companion screen/controller.
3. Appeal to Businesses: Just as Microsoft is attempting to roll out a better consumer entertainment device than the iPad on one side, they are also trying to beat Apple on the other side by creating a true business tablet with Ultrabook-like processing capacity (up to seven times faster than the iPad’s ARM chip).
4. Appeal to
5. Appeal as a Multi-Screen Alternative: With Windows Phone 8 expected to be announced on Wednesday, and the full Windows 8 and the Surface RT tablet due out before the end of the year, Microsoft is creating a fully featured alternative multi-device computing ecosystem to Apple’s.
Microsoft is definitely an underdog in the tablet space, but competition and choice are good for us, the consumer, so let’s hope for their success! Since Microsoft hasn’t announced a specific release date or price tag, it remains to be seen just how effectively they’ll fare against the flood of competing devices. Personally, I’m excited to see what the Surface can do and hope Microsoft can really deliver on a product that solves the shortcomings of the iPad at an affordable price. What do you think? Will you give Surface a try, or do you love your iPad (or other tablet) too much?