At 6:30 EDT last night, Microsoft announced its first entry into the tablet market, the Surface. While Microsoft generally stays away from building hardware, it's decided to buck the company's old trend and try its hand in the tablet arena, but pulling out all the stops with hilariously overpowered specs, polished interface, and fantastic accessories. One thing is clear from the presser yesterday: Apple and Google have a huge problem on their hands and very until fall 2012 to deal with it.
Both versions of Microsoft's new tablets will be debuting in fall of 2012 with the software goliath's new operating system, Windows 8, which is Microsoft's attempt to one-up Android's Ice Cream Sandwich by running one operating system over every device in it's arsenal, but including desktops and laptops. Windows 8 will be the first operating system to bridge the gap between mobile and home computing, and this is a very big deal.
There are two versions of the Surface tablet, the Surface (with NVidia ARM processor) and Surface Pro version (with Intel i5 processor). While the Surface uses very typical hardware for a tablet, it sports a 10.6" screen at a full 1080p resolution, only exceeded by the Toshiba Excite 13" and New iPad. Both tablets have a full USB port (2.0 and 3.0, depending on version), HDMI out, microSD card slots, and a kickstand that allows you to have some hands-off time with your tablet. The Pro version of the Surface is the biggest news, however, as it rocks an x86 Intel Core i5 processor with ultrabook-like specs. While the ARM-based tablet is supposedly going to be priced to compete with existing tablets, the Intel-based tablet is reportedly priced to compete with ultrabooks. While it remains to be seen if a tablet can succeed at a higher price point, the prospect of a tablet loaded for bear is exciting to say the least.
Despite all this exciting stuff, there is a number of questions that have not been answered yet, and can only be answered in independent testing. For example: that 42wh battery in the pro version is similar to the one in the Transformer Prime; with significantly more power-hungry hardware, can it have good battery life? What is the range of apps going to be? Can it support external drives and devices? What are the rest of the core specs like RAM? Did Microsoft use its breakthrough touchscreen system?While all of these questions need to be answered, there's still plenty of time before launch.