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Microsoft Reveals Its iPad Rival: Surface

No details on pricing and availability, but it has a nifty looking keyboard.

There was rampant speculation about Microsoft’s secretive announcement all day today, but the most logical reveal was the actual one: a tablet. Inaccurate rumors had pegged it as possibly being Xbox related. Instead, Microsoft has re-branded the Surface name as part of a new series of tablets.

Surface will come in two flavors, Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro. The key difference? Only the latter will be able to run full-featured Windows 8. The Windows RT version is much more iPad-esque, locked into Microsoft’s new application ecosystem.

Microsoft appears to be positioning its tablet line as a more capable version of the iPad, especially since its Smart Cover equivalent has a keyboard on the other side. There’s even a version with tactile keys, if that’s your thing.

Complete specs on Surface are as follows:

The presentation was short on software demos, but 17-Bit, formerly Haunted Temple Studios, did reveal Skulls of the Shogun would be one of the premiere games compatible with Surface. It will also be on PC and Xbox Live Arcade.

The company could have knocked it out of the park with details on pricing and availability, but instead chose to punt that information down the line. Surface will be “priced to compete,” a statement that implies there are actually devices released that are, uh, not intended to be priced to compete.

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290 Comments
Posted by Bollard

Wasn't surface the name they used for that coffee table thing?

Also, Windows 8 looks like a raging piece of shit for desktops, and will never touch a desktop I own. However, this looks like it could actually be a cool replacement for my ageing laptop. You have my ear Microsoft. But only one of them.

Posted by ChosenOne

Still waiting on Google's Nexus 7 later this month, more likely to be in my price range given it's a 7'incher.

Posted by ManMadeGod

@ValiantGrizzly said:

I am going to try and zigzag through all the trolls and fanboys in this comment section, and just try to get some honest advice:

If I'm looking to replace my (relatively low- to mid-end) laptop, say, next year, am I better off just getting a tablet? Regardless of it being a windows or apple product. I just use it to browse and write the occasional e-mail, I have 3 consoles to play video games on and no space to put a desktop computer.

Get another low-end laptop. I have never met someone that only uses a tablet (myself included). They're great when you need to be super portable but at the rate smartphones are advancing I would say use that for on the bus/waiting in line web browsing and your laptop for home use. Who knows, maybe a year from now this full fledged windows 8 tablet will catch on and some new iPad will be out. But I would be weary: they're all toys.

Posted by Wuddel

Really cool. After having an iPad 1 for a while, I found out I do not need a tablet to go with my gaming-PC, work-MacBook and smartphone. I will probably reevaluate should I ever switch from a MacBook (for working at the university) to an Mac-Desktop (for doing personal stuff at home, while my employer provides me with a computer).

Posted by FMinus

The pro variant with the i5 looks promising. If they have a touch sensitive sensor in there ala Wacom digitalizer, it's going to be a day one buy from me, if they ever come to Europe, and they don't pull a shit like with the Zune. Nothing better then to go into a park with your relatively small and compact tablet, and start designing or drawing some ideas. Had been doing that with my HP touch notebook while ago, but it was heavy, and too annoying.

I hope they don't mess this up, but if they are spot-on, as said day one buy and throwing my laptops into the trash.

Also there's 2 types of covers, one for the RT and one for the PRO, the pro one has actual key movement, whilst the RT is flat and no key press feedback. So again going with the PRO cover is the way to go.

The ARM tablet is a head-to-head competitor with the iPad, where the PRO is really a notebook, miles beyond iPad and the RT version. I guess the pricing for PRO will be accordingly close to $1000.

Posted by Rolento

@xantar said:

The determining factors are:

  • Price - being inline with iPad is ok, but REAL MS Office is a big sell. And Windows Pro is F'ing huge in enterprise, domain support and User & Group Policies are very important to corporate IT.
  • Battery Life - We can hope for iPad equivalent in the RT but for the Pro please 7+ Hours.
  • Ongoing support - Microsoft has a long history of making great products sidewinder and digital sound system that exist for one iteration get critical acclaim and then ... disappear

All signs point to The Pro being amazing, dependent on price. But it should be a Computer that happens to be a tablet. Not a tablet that hopes to be a computer.

Except that no IT department for any reputable and profitable organization wants that godawful Metro shit anywhere near their corporate environment. And since Microsoft has been eerily quiet about the ability to get rid of Metro Start and restore the standard Start button that users are used to, most of the other IT decision makers I have spoken with are also planning on giving Windows 8 a pass.

Posted by mikey87144

@Dizzmotron said:

I get the feeling that Windows 8 is going to make a great tablet OS, but a very poor desktop OS. I look forward to reviews of this and other tablets.

Reason why I'm not exited for Windows 8.

Posted by Sinan_617

I was hyped about the concept of finally typing again...

right up until i read the words "touch keyboard".

But life isn't over yet...

Edited by avantegardener

I think splitting the market with 2 devices is an exceptionally dumb idea, but I don't own multi-billion dollar software company, YOUR move Microsoft.

Edited by Phoenix87

It will fail, just like the Zune.

Posted by EXTomar

I hate pointing this out because it is Yet Another Apple example but part of the marketing plan is that iPad and MacBook are two separate product lines and both exploded. They recognized that both systems have strengths that can't be duplicate in either platform so they strove to integrate their systems to play well together but aren't at all the same product.

So I ask again, how wise is Surface which tries to unite them? This really looks a lot like what Sony tried with Vita where they created a high quality "hybrid device" with a ton of features but ignored that the market was already flooded with a bunch of other devices that did all of the same things. Relying on their brand to entice people to abandon their other devices is going to be rough.

Posted by zombie2011

@DelroyLindo said:

I dont get it, that looks like a laptop, not a tablet

The keyboard is a actually a cover for the screen, it's insanely thin and incredibly awesome.

Posted by DelroyLindo

@zombie2011 said:

@DelroyLindo said:

I dont get it, that looks like a laptop, not a tablet

The keyboard is a actually a cover for the screen, it's insanely thin and incredibly awesome.

I see, in that case it's pretty slick

Posted by zombie2011

@EXTomar said:

I hate pointing this out because it is Yet Another Apple example but part of the marketing plan is that iPad and MacBook are two separate product lines and both exploded. They recognized that both systems have strengths that can't be duplicate in either platform so they strove to integrate their systems to play well together but aren't at all the same product.

So I ask again, how wise is Surface which tries to unite them? This really looks a lot like what Sony tried with Vita where they created a high quality "hybrid device" with a ton of features but ignored that the market was already flooded with a bunch of other devices that did all of the same things. Relying on their brand to entice people to abandon their other devices is going to be rough.

The thing is MS doesn't sell PC's or Laptops, so they won't be cannibalizing any sales. This is MS's only hardware product that has Windows 8. If someone decides to pick this up instead of a Dell laptop MS gets more money, if they decide to pick up a Dell laptop instead of this MS still has sold a copy of Windows 8.

Posted by Blunt

It has a keyboard as it's smartcover?

Beats the iPad like a red-headed stepchild.

Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie

It's all about the price. If you're going to charge iPad money for it, then I may as well pick up then next iPad. This bad boy needs to be a much cheaper yet realistic alternative to the iPad.

Posted by JasonR86

"The company could have knocked it out of the park with details on pricing and availability, but instead chose to punt that information down the line."

MAN. A baseball reference and a football reference in one sentence. Yikes. The device seems kind of neat. I don't have an interest in a tablet but the actual keyboard might make it easier for my parents if they chose to get into the tablet market.

Edited by EXTomar

But the subtle issue is that like Sony, Microsoft doesn't want you to buy a table or a table but Surface. Surface's competition isn't going to be just the iPad but the Win7 Laptop and smart phones as well. Going into one market is going to be a hard sell let alone both.

As mentioned before, the issue with the whole netbook/sub-notebook/ultrabook market is that the price vs performance never worked out right. This was never a software problem but a hardware problem which I don't see addressed at all in what Microsoft presented yesterday. That doesn't mean that there isn't a market for this class of hardware but it much smaller than the general market.

Posted by MindChamber

if the keyboard doubles as a hardshell screencover and folds into a stand, then im in, otherwise... meh

Posted by tescovee

I don't understand why people would want this to do poorly? As a consumer wouldn't you want competition? so silly to want it to fail, I want to see droid,crapple,and M$ to succeed. It brings better prices and innovations.

Posted by SexualBubblegumX

@SockemJetpack said:

Now when will they get around to making a holodeck? I've been waiting to get one for decades so I can have sex with holo- I mean so I could train and solve Sherlock Holmes mysteries! Also Dixon Hill.

Seconded. Although I'll prolly do Gwar concert simulations instead of Sherlock Holmes.

Posted by Orange_Pork

People still type "Micro$oft"? Is this 1997?

Edited by EXTomar

@tescovee said:

I don't understand why people would want this to do poorly? As a consumer wouldn't you want competition? so silly to want it to fail, I want to see droid,crapple,and M$ to succeed. It brings better prices and innovations.

I don't want to see it or anything else fail but if you are familiar with the way the tech has gone there is a lot of troubling signs like the Vita (and more distantly PS3). For decades vendors keep believing there is a market for the "desktop replacement" but these initiatives fail because of multiple reasons where the biggest is often price vs performance. So far Surface hasn't addressed that where they are banking that Office will be a big enough brand to entice new users to buy it instead of other hardware.

I don't think a lot of doubters want it to fail but the issue is that history has shown that leaning on brands in the face of high price tag sticker shock are highly risky and fail quite a bit. The only ones who appear can pull it off is Apple and for better or worse Microsoft is no Apple.

Posted by Sackmanjones
@Crushed

It actually runs full Microsoft Office. That's actually pretty damn huge.

I'm with you. As a current student that is extremely appealing to easily move my documents around. If this price isn't too inflated I may consider it.
Posted by blacklab

Hmmm. Seems like you could plug an Xbox controller into the Ivy Bridge version and go to town!

Posted by vonFlampanker

Pressure-sensitive stylus so I can draw on it, and I'm in.

Posted by pingz

@avantegardener said:

I think splitting the market with 2 devices is an exceptionally dumb idea, but I don't own multi-billion dollar software company, YOUR move Microsoft.

You have no clue what you're saying. They are splitting nothing... one is just a "power user" version of the other.

The ARM version of Surface runs Metro apps... has less processing power and longer battery life... cheaper cost. It will be using an Nvidia Tegra processor... so you can expect a good GPU for games too. It might be all most people need if they want to play a few games, email, browse the web, word processing, etc.

The x86 version of Surface runs Metro apps and any Windows/DOS program made in the last 20 years... more processing power and screen resolution at the cost of less battery life... also more expensive. Want to run Steam games on it... no problem. Want to run 3dsMax or VisualStudio on it... should work great. This replaces your laptop.

Their approach to this is perfect. You just lack any knowledge about what the products actually are.

Posted by tescovee

@EXTomar said:

@tescovee said:

I don't understand why people would want this to do poorly? As a consumer wouldn't you want competition? so silly to want it to fail, I want to see droid,crapple,and M$ to succeed. It brings better prices and innovations.

I don't want to see it or anything else fail but if you are familiar with the way the tech has gone there is a lot of troubling signs like the Vita (and more distantly PS3). For decades vendors keep believing there is a market for the "desktop replacement" but these initiatives fail because of multiple reasons where the biggest is often price vs performance. So far Surface hasn't addressed that where they are banking that Office will be a big enough brand to entice new users to buy it instead of other hardware.

I don't think a lot of doubters want it to fail but the issue is that history has shown that leaning on brands in the face of high price tag sticker shock ends up with disaster. The only ones who appear can pull it off is Apple and for better or worse Microsoft is no Apple.

Im jazzed to check it out, fuck apples proprietary bull shit. If this is all go having a micro sd and usb is nice. I don't think this is targeted for a desktop replacement, but for a seamless part of what "they" want doze 8 to be. I use linux so I am in no way a fan boy of ms, but all this hoopla about apple is fucking sheep mentality. People act as if owning a crapple is subversive or some thing. When in reality they are just paying top dollar for a unix OS, hardware that looks perdy, under performs and uses arrogant dev/sales IE: adobe/upgrade-ability.

Posted by Bartz

I expect the Microsoft tablet to launch at $2-300 less than the comparable iPad (overpriced vanities), which would be similar to the Laptop market. I might finally buy a tablet if they manage to make it functional (a given with Microsoft) and affordable (probable).

Posted by neckface

Patricks mixed sports metaphor is way more apt for this product that you guys have given him credit for.

Edited by Mumrik

Nothing complete about those specs. They don't even show resolution.

Anyway, I think this is a bad call from MS and it will cost them. Tablets are pretty stupid devices for the price and most people are buying "an iPad", not "a tablet". Android tablets have struggled big-time for the same reason and MS will only have it even worse. I don't think the tablet market is a natural extension of the smartphone market.

Posted by pingz

@Rolento said:

@xantar said:

Except that no IT department for any reputable and profitable organization wants that godawful Metro shit anywhere near their corporate environment. And since Microsoft has been eerily quiet about the ability to get rid of Metro Start and restore the standard Start button that users are used to, most of the other IT decision makers I have spoken with are also planning on giving Windows 8 a pass.

There is nothing wrong with the Metro Start Screen. It is superior in every way... think of it as a really big "Start menu" if that makes you less afraid of it.

If anything Metro apps are the thing that i'm still hesitant with. Unless its something I do full screen like games... Metro apps are not something I like as much as desktop apps. Still on a tablet with touch... Metro apps are superior to desktop apps.

Still this has nothing to do with IT upgrading. The actual reason IT people will pass is that IT is always behind the tech curve when it comes to OS upgrades. Just now are IT departments transitioning to Windows 7 from XP.... they are not going to do a move to Windows 8 anytime soon as it is unnecessary.

This isn't a surprise... this is how OS upgrades have been done in big corporate IT departments for decades.

Posted by tescovee

@Mumrik said:

Nothing complete about those specs. They don't even show resolution.

Anyway, I think this is a bad call from MS and it will cost them. Tablets are pretty stupid devices for the price and most people are buying "an iPad", not "a tablet". Android tablets have struggled big-time for the same reason and MS will only have it even worse. I don't think the tablet market is a natural extension of the smartphone market.

http://www.tested.com/news/44824-microsoft-announces-/ has specs

Posted by TheKing

Lamb to the slaughter.

Posted by cikame

Weird that you wouldn't just release the windows 8 version.
Check out our amazing compatibility optio... oh sorry you spent several hundred £'s on the wrong one, sorry.
 
Microsoft does not comment on rumor or matters of common sense.

Posted by neckface

@pingz said:

There is nothing wrong with the Metro Start Screen. It is superior in every way...

I honestly do not know how you came to this conclusion

Edited by EXTomar

@Bartz said:

I expect the Microsoft tablet to launch at $2-300 less than the comparable iPad (overpriced vanities), which would be similar to the Laptop market. I might finally buy a tablet if they manage to make it functional (a given with Microsoft) and affordable (probable).

I will not be surprised if they the "pro" version will be upwards more like $1000.

As for Windows 8 Metro interface....

Posted by plaintomato

If they open the next Xbox and the Surface up to be more easily accessible and open to developers of all sizes...they might compete with Apple.

If they can take SmartGlass to its full potential, and maybe come out with a Surface controller peripheral that turns the surface into a Razer Fiona type thing...they might easily outshine the ideas behind Wii-U, Vita, 3DS.

If Kinect 2 has fast precision tracking...well, they don't have any real competitors here, but it would be nice if the thing worked right.

I don't know that MS can be counted on to pull it all off, history says Microsoft is more inclined to locking doors than opening them, but the potential is pretty high with everything MS has cooking.

Posted by FMinus

@Phoenix87 said:

It will fail, just like the Zune.

The only one to blame for the failure of Zune is Microsoft themselves. It would sell just as well as the iPod here in Europe but they would have to bring it out here. There is/was no competitor to the iPod when it comes to 20gb+ players, the only thing you had was the iPod, there's where Microsoft failed.

Posted by Shaolinstyle

i do like it. but for me it will be all about the price. i dont own a ipad or iphone. so was looking for a tab. this fits the bill for me.

Posted by GERALTITUDE

This is what I've wanted for a long time. $500 bucks I'm told. Sounds good to me.

Edited by Ravenlight

Wasn't MS Surface the name of that super-expensive touchscreen countertop from a few years back?

Posted by Korolev

Eh. Depends on the price, but my initial reaction is a tepid "no". I already have a tablet with a detachable keyboard that does the job good enough. The Surface would have to be mind-numbingly better than other tablets to warrant even a second glance from me.

Yes, it'll have Windows 8, and that's nice.... but for what exactly? The tablet I have now can create word, excel and powerpoint files and play just about any media file (it is an android). I don't play games on my tablet because I have a PC. I only use my tablet for web-browsing, watching the occasional movie, taking notes or reading e-books. Will the windows surface do that better than the tablet I have now? I doubt it. It might do it perfectly well, but it won't do it better.

I do have to say that it LOOKS very nice and sleek. Gives apple a run for its money in terms of aesthetics.

Don't get me wrong - it looks like a reasonable tablet. A good tablet, even. But it isn't that different from the tablets that are on the market today. You can't expect to suddenly gain a huge market share when you're playing catch-up and merely following what your competitors are doing. The Surface needs to be better (and significantly better) than the iPad or the Samsung or the ASUS or the Sony Tablets, and I'm just not seeing it.

Posted by zombie2011

@Ravenlight said:

Wasn't MS Surface the name of that super-expensive touchscreen countertop from a few years back?

Yep, i remember people being really impressed by surface when they saw a long time ago so MS is probably just using the name for brand recognition.

I really wanted a surface table when they first announced it, if i was rich i would have every flat surface in my home replaced by the surface touchscreen.

Posted by ErisRon

Tablets have always been a Windows phenomenon so I really hope this one clicks. It's just right for them to get a piece of the action.

Posted by Goldanas

I'm pretty much an Anti-Apple Advocate (or Triple A), and unfortunately I have to play Devil's Advocate here. When the bomb crew posts news about the iPad, people lose their shit:

WHERE ARE THE GAMES!!?

They say. But just doing a casual look through these comments, I don't see any of that for this device. There was pretty much nothing about games at that conference apart from a light mention of "it'll play games", and that was it. They didn't even show any of the games that are already available on the Windows 8 Store.

I have no problem with this or the iPad being on the news section, but I'm just saying at some point being a fanboy crosses the line into being a hypocrite.

Posted by Butano

@FMinus said:

The pro variant with the i5 looks promising. If they have a touch sensitive sensor in there ala Wacom digitalizer, it's going to be a day one buy from me, if they ever come to Europe, and they don't pull a shit like with the Zune. Nothing better then to go into a park with your relatively small and compact tablet, and start designing or drawing some ideas. Had been doing that with my HP touch notebook while ago, but it was heavy, and too annoying.

Also there's 2 types of covers, one for the RT and one for the PRO, the pro one has actual key movement, whilst the RT is flat and no key press feedback. So again going with the PRO cover is the way to go.

The covers are actually for both. Neither are separate from each other. If you want tactile keys for your RT, you can have it. If you want touch for your Pro, you can have that.

I'm not sure if they'll all come with a digitalizer, but it is built with that in mind. Watching the keynote they put up online said that their pen writes at 600dpi and basically disables the capacative touch when the pen is I think 7mm away.

Posted by Ben_H

For all the people discussing productivity, keep in mind that screen is about the size of a netbook screen, so not super useful for anything outside of email or word processing. The pro version is essentially a Windows 8 netbook with a detachable keyboard and fewer ports that will cost a ton more simply because of the touch screen. Overall a resounding meh from me. I'll stick with my iPad/laptop combo.

Posted by Goldanas

@Butano: In regards to the pen digitizer, the spec sheet suggests that's just for the Pro, which would make sense as that also suggests the Pro has a larger resolution (at least that's how they spoke of it as I recall).

Posted by fustacluck

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@KaosAngel said:

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

OK its just a translator school, cool. I thought you were in the real military.

What? We're the top percentage of the military. Are you honest to god a moron?

LOL. Its just a language institute for the ARMY, the top percentage are the ones on the front line, not arm chair soldiers.

Dude, you're showing yourself to be a complete cretin. The "real military" is made up of more than just bullet-stoppers. I don't know what KaosAngel does, but in the British forces other languages are taught to a variety of trades, including special forces. Until you know, I'd keep quiet.