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Microsoft finally Surfaces in tablet market

June 18, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • Microsoft unveiled its new Surface tablet and magnetic smart covers that double as a keyboard.
Microsoft unveiled its new Surface tablet and magnetic smart covers that… (Microsoft )

After seeming to have tabled its tablet dreams, ceding the market to Apple and Google, Microsoft has surfaced, literally. It has announced its entry into the mobile market -- the Surface. But tucked away below the surface were unannounced details such as price and battery life.

What we did learn was that the Surface comes in two different flavors -- for Windows RT and for Windows Pro. The RT version is in both 32-gigabyte and 64-gigabyte orientations.

Some of the distinctive features of the 9.3-millimeter Surface is its magnesium case with a 10.6-inch Gorilla Glass display. On the back, a kickstand is integrated, breaking up the seamless lines just a bit. The Wi-Fi-enabled Surface weighs in at 1.5 pounds, which is a hair heavier than the iPad (1.44 pounds). It also connects via USB 2.

PHOTOS: The Microsoft Surface

The tablet, complete with Office, is touted as fully-functional as a Windows desktop, with specs that rival many ultrabooks on the market today, including the latest Intel CPU. Surface has the standard front and rear cameras.

"It was important that the Windows software could rise to the surface," said Panos Panay, the products' designer.

The screen features digitizers for both touch and digital ink, and the pen magnetically tucks away into the top of the tablet.

Something that is reminiscent but with a twist are the magnetic smart covers to go with the Surface tablets. The covers appear very similar in basic function to Apple's smart covers, but the twist comes with a virtual keyboard on the Touch Cover and a tactile keyboard on the Type Cover.

As names go, it's not something that immediately triggers that gotta-have-it reaction, but then neither did iPad initially.

Microsoft said it focused on details as intricate as the sound of the kickstand. "We really wanted to get the sound right, so you get that visceral feeling, that emotional attachment," said Panos.

The question remains how the public will receive this late entry. 

"It's a bold challenge against Apple, but a lot will depend on the details of price, battery life, ecosystem," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "It will be interesting to see how their licensees react when they discover they are competing with Microsoft as well as Apple."

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