In case you hadn’t heard, computing took another step (forward) today, as Microsoft announced and furtively demonstrated under its own brand two new tablet format computers called Surface – Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro (ta-da!). This event would not have warranted much hype, except that the Apple iPad made the tablet format a considerable success and Microsoft still has some clout. Unlike Apple’s rollout of the iPad, Microsoft Surface is months away from delivery and even the computer press couldn’t get more than a couple of minutes hands on. There are far more questions than answers about the utility and competitive position of the Surface models.
Both models have a keyboard that doubles as a cover. There is a choice of flat keyboard or one with minimally raised keys. This is in addition to the usual tablet use of finger action or pen input. The Windows RT model is very thin (9.33 mm) and light (1.49 pounds) with the Pro version slightly thicker and heavier. The case is a stiff and secure magnesium. The 10.6 inch display looks good on the surface (pun intended), although the exact resolution is unknown. There are multiple expansion ports and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. We don’t know much more: Price? Performance? Windows apps use? The all-important feel of using it? Reliability? Battery life? How do Microsoft’s manufacturing partners feel about it?
All this is not much more than saying, “it’s coming” and “its a major effort by Microsoft, so pay attention.” I can’t help adding that whether great, good, mediocre or bad, Microsoft Surface will goose the market for tablet computers. It increases the chances that the tablet format will become the default personal-use computer of the near-future.