Surface: Microsoft’s Windows 8 Hardware

In an event in LA, Microsoft showed off Surface, its presumptive flagship Windows 8 product that’s a full-blown tablet set to compete with models coming out of Windows OEMs. Coming in both Intel and ARM flavours, the Surface runs Windows 8 and is perhaps best used in conjunction with one of two accessories that offers the device a traditional keyboard and trackpad input.

Not only is Microsoft compete with its own licensees with the Surface, but they’re also going far into living out my personal dream for them, creating a stronger, more cohesive ecosystem that isn’t tainted by third parties.

The Surface

The Surface family are all 10.6-inch tablets running Windows 8, although that’s pretty much where the likeness ends. They do have cosmetic similarities, however, with both also featuring a built-in kickstand for standing your Surface on another Surface

The Surface running Windows RT will utilize an ARM-based, Nvidia Tegra processor to run the RT version of Windows 8, and will come on a tablet equipped with 32GB or 64GB of on-board storage. The Surface running Windows 8 under an Intel chipset will use an Ivy Bridge processor, USB 3.0 and 64GB or 128GB of storage.

The Surface, in all it's glory.

It’s perhaps the Surface running Intel, the Mircosoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro, that is most interesting, running on an Intel processor and having full access to the traditional Windows desktop and all its apps as Windows 8 on Intel does. Whereas the tablet market has been primarily led by a device running a mobile operating system, iOS, with its main rivals running another, Android, the Surface is Microsoft’s attempt to bring their re-imagined desktop operating system to the tablet form factor.

The Surface for Windows 8 Pro will also support digital ink through a hardware pen that magnetizes to the body of the tablet (the styli are coming back!).

Touch and Type Covers

Microsoft is doing something interesting with its accessories for the Surface, namely two covers that come built with a keyboard and trackpad. They’re both pretty much the same but Type offers a full tactile keyboard whereas the Touch one is based on multi-touch rather than physical being.

Attaching to the Surface tablet in a way blatantly mimicked from Apple’s Smart Cover for iPad, magnetically, the covers offer up the two traditional input methods to support the experience of a more traditional Windows environment being available alongside Metro. Essentially, when the Intel tablet is paired with one of these covers, it becomes very similar to a traditional notebook running Windows, which some people will certainly like.

I know it piqued my interested, and many others. Microsoft is certainly being quite innovative on this front and, even if just conceptually, the product sounds awesome.

Pricing and Availability

These are two things we heard nothing about at the event. Neither tablet has a price given or a date of availability set, and no-one seems to know what to expect.

On the pricing front, nothing’s been confirmed, although the Windows RT version will most likely need to match or undercut the iPad’s $499 to have any chance of success. The version running Intel is given reason to be a little more expensive, perhaps around the $700 mark since it’s really being more of an ultrabook than tablet.

Availability is also up to speculation, although we’re likely looking at an October/November release to come alongside the general release of the OS, and in time for the holiday season.

The Surface's various covers come in a variety of colours.

Does It Have a Chance?

The Intel version is really the star of the show here, bringing a premium set of specifications and access to the Intel version of Windows 8, and, er go, the existing world of apps for Windows. It’s really quite different to anything the tablet market hosts at the moment, causing it to be perceived as more of an ultrabook contender than a tablet.

I’m certainly looking forward to the release of these two devices, and will hopefully be able to get my hands on the Intel version when they hit the market. Are you planning on picking one up? Will this announcement sway you away from an iPad or a rival Android tablet?