Microsoft revealed its long awaited tablet on Monday, an ultra-slim device called ‘Surface’. Running a new version of the company’s Windows 8 software, the tablet is directly designed, produced and sold by Microsoft, a departure from its usual association with production partners like Hewlett-Packard and Dell. It’s a very important step for Microsoft as they struggle to compete with Apple in the mobile technology market.
First off, the design of the tablet is very appealing. Surface features a 10.6 inch high-definition touchscreen, front and rear facing cameras, as well as a very innovative cover, which also doubles as a keyboard. This is an exciting feature which significantly increases usability, something already praised in the Transformer series of tablets produced by Asus. At just three millimetres, the cover/keyboard is exceptionally slim. When the device is closed, it looks like a wafer thin laptop.
Surface weighs slightly less than Apple’s iPad, and at 9.3 millimetres, it is also fractionally thinner. Its chipset will be powerful – customers will have a choice of an Intel or ARM based processor. ARM will offer storage amounting to 32GB or 64GB, while Intel chipsets will be available with 64GB or 128GB of storage. While this may sound exciting, it may not bode well in the market for tablet computers. Consumers like choice when it comes to desktop and laptop computers but not tablets. Apple has shown that the simplicity of offering everything in one package leads to success.
The price was not revealed at Microsoft’s press conference on Monday, but officials stressed that it would be priced like comparable tablets. The most basic iPad comes in at $499 and the higher-end 128GB Surface tablet is expected to be priced in the same region as ultrabooks, around $1,000 at most. Expect the first wave of Microsoft Surface tablets to reach customers this autumn.
So, to the most important question. Can Surface wrestle away some of Apple’s dominance of the tablet pc market? It’s hard to tell. Surface does have the benefit of 128GB of storage – double that of the iPad as well as an extremely ergonomic keyboard which makes life easier. It also operates without iTunes – that head wrecking, controlling, ugly software on which the iPad depends. Apple sold 40 million iPads in 2011, out of worldwide tablet sales of 60 million. It will be difficult for Microsoft to entice that loyal Apple fan base, but with the right design, price and quality, anything is possible in the world of digital technology.