Surface – The Microsoft Tablet is Out

Well, Microsoft announced its new tablet yesterday, Surface. This new device will go up against the Apple iPad.

Indeed, there are different versions, but one version, which will go on sale until sometime in the fall, is 9.3 millimeter thick and works on the Windows RT operating system. It comes with a kickstand to hold it upright and a touch keyboard cover that snaps on using magnets. The device weighs under 1.5 pounds and will cost about as much as other tablet computers. The size is similar to the latest iPad, which is 9.4 millimeters thick and weighs 1.3 pounds. Price? Microsoft promised that the Surface’s price tag will be similar to the iPad, which sells for $499 to $829, depending on the model.

On the other hand, a slightly thicker version, but still less than 14 millimeters thick and under 2 pounds – will work on Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 Pro operating system and cost as much as an Ultrabook. The pro version comes with a stylus that allows users to make handwritten notes on documents such as PDF files.

Each tablet comes with a keyboard cover that is just 3 millimeters thick. The kickstand for both tablets was just 0.7 millimeters thick, less than the thickness of a credit card.

A New Road to Manufacturing

Microsoft has stayed away from PC manufacturing. It was content to design software, and let PC manufacturers look at the hardware business as their own. Not any more. Manufacturing a tablet represents a departure from Microsoft’s successful strategy in the PC market. Now, with PC design in its track, Microsoft will have to deal with  other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo and Acer, that licensed the Windows operating system and other software applications.  The more hands-on approach may upset some. But it doesn’t look like they can do much about that.

Will this plan work? Well nothing is guaranteed. Microsoft did try with other devices.  Microsoft made its own music player, the Zune, and a line of phones, the Kin. In both cases, it produced these products after hardware partners had failed to produce competitive products with Microsoft’s software. But neither succeeded. The Xbox, on the other hand has been a big success. You hook up the Xbox to a TV to play video games.

So will the Surface succeed beyond more than just lying on the surface. We should know in a few months.

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