Microsoft announces Windows 8 ‘Microsoft Surface’ tablets, potential iPad killer(s)

As expected, Microsoft has announced its own Microsoft-branded Windows 8 tablets. The surprise, however, is Microsoft not only announced a Windows RT tablet (the version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM-based processors) but it also announced a Windows 8 Pro tablet. Windows 8 Pro is the ‘traditional’ version of Windows which runs on Intel chips.

In a mystery press conference by Microsoft, held in Los Angeles, CEO Steve Ballmer revealed the two variants of Microsoft tablets, dubbing them ‘Microsoft Surface’ tablets. This announcement sees Microsoft finally entering the tablet market years after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced in 2001 tablets would rule the market ‘in a few years’. (Funnily enough, it is Microsoft’s rival, Apple, who created what can be considered the modern tablet market.)

Windows 8 Pro, as already mentioned, is more or less the desktop version of Windows 8 Professional and is Intel-based while Windows RT is ARM-based. Windows 8 Pro will offer the full, desktop-like Windows 8 experience while Windows RT is the ‘mobile’ version of Windows 8. It is yet to be seen exactly what Windows RT offers and what it doesn’t.

The Windows 8 Pro tablet packs a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display with Gorilla Glass, USB 3.0, dual wi-fi antennae, multi-touch keyboard, trackpad, 42 W-h battery, and a choice of either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage; with an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor powering it.

The Windows RT tablet comes with a 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display and a 31.5 W-h battery. Interestingly, it supports only USB 2.0. Other features include a choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, dual-wifi antennae, multi-touch keyboard; it is powered by an ARM-based chip produced by NVIDIA.

Pricing and availability is yet to be determined for either tablets; but the Windows RT tablet is likely going to be cheaper than the Windows 8 Pro tablet. I’m going to venture out and say the Windows RT tablet will probably be priced alongside iPad and Android tablets while Windows 8 Pro will likely be at least a few hundred dollars more expensive.

The video below shows a quick demo of Microsoft’s new tablets:

Back when Windows 8 was just a baby it was mighty clear Microsoft was targeting the tablet market with Windows 8. With the announcement of these two new tablets Microsoft expects to give iPad and the Android tablets a run for their money. The fact that these tablets run Windows is a huge advantage, if leveraged properly by Microsoft, over rival competition because of the ability to create a harmonious ecosystem with our traditional computers. However, it is really up to the future to decide whether the Microsoft tablets will live on or die out.

[via Engadget]

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  • Dan

    I know what you mean, Ashraf..but it all comes down to how much you want to buy Apple in the end. I mean, what is it the new Surface offers that an iPad can’t do? And given the fact it will marry completely to the PC/laptop you already seems logical to think folks will tip toward the Surface and not the iPad.

    That said, the iPad will always be “the iPad” and nothing is ever going to change that..but on a practical front, carrying one around instead of two is better any day. Who wants to carry two things with them, when the one will do the work of the other two combined?

    Granted, there is the issue of content being supported and offered that will have to match that already on offer in the form of apps currently on the market, which people have already gotten used to..but I think that’s what MS are aiming at by introducing these two models..the lighter one for those who currently own/use the iPad..with the Pro version aimed at those who want the power of a laptop with the mobility of a table.

    Perhaps the only flaw in what MS is doing here is they might be trying to back both horses, instead of focusing on just the one and making sure it crosses the finish line. BUt still, I guess they have a plan..what that is we can only guess at..but if the past is anything to go by, then yesterday’s event could very well be the start of MS repeating the same blow it leveled on Apple when it launched Windows OS..the hallmarks are the very same, with MS sitting back and letting everyone else create and develope the market for them, before stepping in and turning things round in their favour.

    On the surface, we are all taking about this just being a tablet, but I think this runs much deeper than that..after all, Bill Gates & Co have been working on this for some far back as 2001, so I figure they are not just going to bring out “another tablet”, but rather use this as the stepping stone to pull all the threads together and repackage what we are all already used to..but this time it will be offered to us bigger and better by MS.

    Content such as T.V, Movies, Music, Cloud services, software..and now this hardware to bring it all together under the one MS umbrella. Granted, they sure may not be inventing the weel here, but it sure looks like they are pointing us in the direction of the road!

  • Ashraf

    @Dan: Why would someome get an iPad over a Win8 Pro tablet? Simple: cost. If Win8 Pro tablets cost $1,000 (this is just a guess), people can purchase an iPad and cheap notebook in the same price. When given such a choice Im inclined to think many will pick the latter.

    And I agree with you that deep down we all want to be cool, tapping away into a tablet like Picard :-)

    In any case, Microsoft’s Surface Win8 Pro will likely be a mid-range tablet in regards to the Win8 Pro market. Other manufacturers will cut Microsoft in price for Win8 Pro tablets while others will charge more but add more features. Keep in mind this isnt Apple — Microsoft isnt the only one making Win8 tablets.

    @Mike: For consumers, too.

  • Mike

    A great development–spirited competition is only a good thing for these companies!

  • Dan

    Ture, Ashraf..but I would be one of those who is works as good as a laptop. The real dealmaker here is the mobility and complete universal function set offered. If the Surface Pro matches that of a laptop and will cost the same, then why wouldn’t you go for a Surface Pro over an iPad..if everything you use is Windows-based already? And, besides, why would you go with an iPad now, when you could get something that will let you do what your laptop can do, instead of having to deal with the limitations and headaches of going down the iPad road.

    But, also, conversly..think of those coming up..who have yet ot buy a laptop of their own. Cast your mind back to when you had your own Desktop PC and the dream was to have laptop instead..and all the doors you imagined that would open for you in your life..that’s waht we are really talking about here..the future choices of the generations coming up..those who will want everything smaller, lighter and more mobile..and it seriously looks like the Surface will be the first real contender to actually offer them this.

    Take those who are into making music on their PC..and there are many folks out there..this Pro will let them do everything they can do know on their PC/laptop..something the iPad won’t. It has always been a case of searching for the best app that, at best, acts as a bridge between what you can do on your PC/laptop and what the iPad will let you do. On most forums I have visited or belong to, members seem to want the same thing..the ability to co what they want..but at the same time the freedom that comes with the iPad and tablets in general.

    If MS do offer this for around the same as a laptop, then I don’t see that being too much of a factor to put people off buying it..given it is meant to have an i5 running it. If it came with an i7, then perhaps they could get away with charging more..but then their PC/laptop line might take a hit..and I don’t think MS want to drop thsoe lines just matter how good this new Serface will be.

    Having said that, I do think that is the way things are heading for the future of the PC market in general. To be honest, deep down in our hearts, we all want to be like Picard in Star Trek, puching stuff into a tablet that talks back to us and is an all-round media hub in our lives..and I don’t think you have to even be a Trekkie/Trakker to secretly yearn for or want that. :- )

    But, yes, I have to agree with you..the price WILL be the make it or break it factor in all of this.

  • Ashraf

    @Dan: Im in the party of those who think this will usher in the real ‘Post-PC’ era; I agree with you that Apple should be scared.

    That said, however, in my opinion price will play a huge factor in the success, or lack thereof, of Win8 tablets. According to the rumor mill Windows RT version will cost around the same as current iPad and Android tablets while Windows 8 Pro versiom will be 1.5-2x the price. We dont have too much details on Windowa RT but it sounds like Windows 8 Pro is the version that offers a computer experience with the mobility of a tablet; but who is willing to drop $1,000 on a tablet when you can get a laptop instead? Or even a iPad/Android tablet + cheap laptop?

  • Dan

    Live or die? I know there are a huge number of iPad fans out there that will smirk at this..but I dare say Apple are none too pleased with this about history repeating itself! Windows stole Apple’s thunder in the past when they rolled out the Windows OS and it looks like they just might have done it again.

    My main reason for thinking this is that this is not JUST a Windows version of an iPad..but the Pro version will offer something most of us..Apple supporters included..have been longing for: a tablet that is more like a PC, that gives you the freedom to do everything a PC does, but with the added mobility ease of use.

    Now take into account that this will offer choice of colored keyboard ( something which will also effect Dell and a few others, who have been making bucks from offering this for a while already!) online music store..and who knows what else at this early stage..and I think it’s not too far-fetched to be thinking Apple could take a very serious hit in the mid-to-long term on share prices and sales in general.

    Up to now, the iPad has been an well designed artistic object of desire for some and the seemingly best choice for many others who wanted to ditch the PC for something more mobile, but it still lacked function in some very major areas..and the with all Apple products..seems to have remained high when compared to what it actually does..but that is always the case when you are a market leader, where you basically can set the price and the market must follow.

    With this, however, if MS offer it are a pretty price, it could very well change the way we use computers forever! I guess many..myself included..will stand back a while and watch to see how this little beauty performs and what the initial problems with it will..and there always are some.

    In the end though, I think it’s a fair enough bet to say this will be a winner..and for those who hav e any doubts, just look at the system you are using right’s size and storage. In my cae, I’m typing this on a large Toshiba Satellite Pro, with a P4 processor and 100 GB HD..the Pro version of the Surface will leave this standing..

    Now look a few years down the line and think where they WILL take this over time?

    It’s so muc a question of will this be a winner..and more a case of looking back and wondering why we didn’t see the puch coming before it hit!