Microsoft announced in the middle of last week that they would have a big announcement on Monday in Los Angeles at 3:30pm Pacific Time. Immediately rumors began to swirl about tablets although, at the beginning of last week they updated their Xbox Live applications for existing Android and iOS tablets. There had been some talk about a partnership with struggling retailer Barnes and Noble but that was quickly refuted in a report by BuisnessInsider.com earlier today.
Microsoft head Steve Ballmer finally made his way on to the stage around 4:15 p.m. and started off with explaining why Windows is so important to the company, followed by a fairly detailed history of Microsoft. Laying out how integral interaction has been, led up to Steve Ballmer saying, “We wanted to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovation.”
With that, Windows 8 head Steven Sinofsky came out to show off the new line of tablets, named “Surface.” The new piece of hardware has a 10.6 inch 9.3mm thick tablet. Uniquely, it will feature a full USB 2.0 port in addition to HDMI, the front and rear cameras housed in a “vapor magnesium” case. It will weigh 1.5 lbs and feature full Windows 8 and Xbox integration. Steven Sinofsky also promised full compatibility with the Windows store. A magnetic case will feature a built in keyboard and the device will have an ultra-thin, full-length built in stand and a HD screen with Gorilla Glass 2.
The following is from Microsoft’s press release:
“Advances in Industrial Design
Conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware, Surface represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity. Extensive investment in industrial design and real user experience includes the following highlights:
Software takes center stage: Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out.
VaporMg: The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.
Integrated Kickstand: The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.
Touch Cover: The 3 mm Touch Cover represents a step forward in human-computer interface. Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. It will be available in a selection of vibrant colors. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.
An Amazing Windows Experience
Two models of Surface will be available: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT, and one with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro. From the fast and fluid interface, to the ease of connecting you to the people, information and apps that users care about most, Surface will be a premium way to experience all that Windows has to offer. Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.
Contributing to an Expanded Ecosystem
One of the strengths of Windows is its extensive ecosystem of software and hardware partners, delivering selection and choice that makes a customer’s Windows experience uniquely their own. This continues with Surface. Microsoft is delivering a unique contribution to an already strong and growing ecosystem of functional and stylish devices delivered by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bring the experience of Windows to consumers and businesses around the globe.
Additional Product Information
Surface for Windows RT
OS: Windows RT
Light(1): 676 g
Thin(2): 9.3 mm
Clear: 10.6” ClearType HD Display
Energized: 31.5 W-h
Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Light(1): 903 g
Thin(2): 13.5 mm
Clear: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display
Energized: 42 W-h
Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB
(1), (2). Actual size and weight of the device may vary due to configuration and manufacturing process.
Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.
For more information about Surface, visit http://www.surface.com.”
All of the tablet talk was of course due mostly to Microsoft’s E3 keynote presentation where they revealed the “Smart Glass” which will come soon to their top selling console and allow multi-surface interaction in games, movies and television. In what appears to be an attempt to undercut, Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console, the “Smart Glass” application on the Xbox 360 will utilize tablets and smart phones to provide additional in-game content or as alternate input devices. In conjunction with all of the content deals they’ve made, an Xbox tablet is not that far of a reach. Think Kindle Fire.
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