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In Los Angeles on Monday, Microsoft pulled a surprise out of the bag in their Windows 8 strategy – a Microsoft manufactured and branded tablet, called the Surface. It’s a sleek device to rival the iPad that comes complete with a detachable keyboard and stand, and it looks as if it could really have an impact in the tablet market when it’s released alongside Windows 8 later this year.

There are two versions – Surface for Windows 8 Pro and Surface for Windows RT – with significant differences you ought to know about, so here’s a full rundown on what we know so far.

Before we start, check out the official launch video:

The Name

Microsoft Surface was actually an existing product so they already owned the domains and trademarks. It was a $10,000 multitouch table that you may have seen in corporate environments and upmarket bars. In fact, I previously lambasted Microsoft for failing to make it affordable 3 Reasons Microsoft Is Losing The Plot [Opinion] 3 Reasons Microsoft Is Losing The Plot [Opinion] Are we in the midst of the final days of Microsoft as we know it? Feedback from tech professionals about Metro UI has been predominantly negative so far, but that's the least of our worries... Read More or to sufficiently bring developers on board. That product has now been renamed Pixelsense, and all associated YouTube videos have been deleted.

Surface now only refers to this new Windows 8 tablet PC. Personally, I love the name. It’s a singular, clearly defined name, and Microsoft hopes it will become as recognizable to the average consumer as the iPad is today.


The Hardware

Details of the exact hardware are thin on the ground at the time of writing this. We do know that there are two distinct models available – Surface for Windows 8 Pro, and Surface for Windows RT.  NVidia’s Tegra 3 is powering the ARM-based Windows RT version (more on the different OS versions in a bit), and there will be 64GB and 128GB SSD drives in the Windows 8 Pro model and 32GB/64GB in the Windows RT model.

Both have a 10.6″ screen, but the Windows 8 Pro model will be full HD (1080p), while the RT model is just ‘HD’, which presumably means 720p. The Pro model is also slightly thicker and heavier – 13.5mm/903g against 9.3mm/676g.

For ports, the RT model is equipped with MicroSD, USB2, and Micro HD video; while the Pro model comes with MicroSDXC, USB3.0, and a mini DisplayPort.

Following in the trend of “hardware specs don’t matter” laid down by Apple, no other details have been released about memory or processor. Honestly, if it provides a fluid, comfortable experience, who care about the exact specs?

The casing is being marketed heavily though; built using a patented magnesium alloy they’ve named VaporMG. It provides a solid feel, with an attractive finish with strong scratch resistance, and has been moulded for that custom unibody-style design. Basically, this thing is as sexy as an iPad, and Microsoft is going to make sure you know it. A stand can be folded out from the main case to provide angled viewing.

The Keyboard

The surface can be docked into a SmartCover-esque case, with a keyboard built in. There are two versions announced currently; one thinner version called Touch Cover with pressure sensitive keys, and one thicker with mechanical action keys called Type Cover. Both make use of magnets to snap onto the tablet securely.

The Software

There are some very important differences between the two OS versions running on these devices:

  • Windows 8 Pro version will be able to run legacy Windows applications, ie. every Windows app released to date, including desktop, Metro apps, and anything else.
  • Windows RT version will only be able to run Metro apps.
  • The Windows RT model will come complete with Office Home and Student 2012 RT pre-installed.
  • There will be a desktop on both; however traditional desktop software will not run on Windows RT – the option to use the desktop will be there for new Metro-developed applications, and presumably a familiar file explorer.
  • Windows RT version will be locked to Internet Explorer as the only available Internet browser.
  • Windows RT version will also be subject to secure boot, meaning installing another OS is unlikely. Windows 8 Pro version may also be subject to this, but we cannot confirm that yet.

If you’re still unsure, think of the Windows 8 Pro version as a regular laptop / ultrabook, able to run all your existing software. Windows RT however is a pure Windows 8 tablet, with restricted apps and limitations, more directly comparable to the iPad.

Pricing & Release Date

Microsoft has said that pricing will be “competitive” in the market, which I suspect means the same as an iPad for the RT model and similar to existing ultrabooks for the Pro model. Surface for Windows RT will be available “around the time” of the official Windows 8 launch, with the Pro model coming 3 months later.

On the surface of it (see what I did there?), the Microsoft branded Windows 8 tablet has a lot of potential – a lot more in fact than other OEM Windows 8 tablets. By taking the Apple approach of controlling both hardware and software, Microsoft stands to make a cohesive and well supported product. I can’t imagine how furious OEM manufacturers are at the moment.

Microsoft themselves have said that the Surface is designed to be the pump that drives the sales of other Windows 8 devices.  I predict the Surface alone may actually take a large chunk of the tablet market. Android tablets have failed to gain traction, whilst the Android-based but self branded Amazon Kindle Fire has cornered the lower end of the market. Is there space for Microsoft? At this point, certainly.

The site is currently down, but check out for the official marketing.

Let us know in the comments what you think of the Surface.  Will you be buying one when they become available?  Do you think it stands a chance of making a sizable dent in the iPad’s current dominance of the tablet market?

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  1. Sri Vastav Reddy
    December 4, 2012 at 5:06 am

    just wondering..can i play Hi-def Games on it??
    for example..Halo 4?

    • Muo TechGuy
      December 4, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Given that it has no discrete graphics chip, this is very unlikely. Certainly not on the Surface RT, and possibly not on the Pro model either.

  2. anonymous
    September 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    what an ugly design , .. I rather choose the new asus transformer book which is far more elegant and better than this crap :p

  3. Curtis C.
    September 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    The keyboard is surprisingly thin.

  4. Shawn Ashree Baba
    July 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    The Surface is absolutely amazing! Really excited for its release.

  5. uriel_blanchard
    June 27, 2012 at 5:09 am

    I like the design and the keyboard looks so nice :):) So we will wait to see more from it :)

  6. jessemanalansan
    June 27, 2012 at 12:46 am

    I would love to get one if this gets released in the market!

  7. Yogesh Verma
    June 26, 2012 at 4:33 am

    i think it has the slimiest keyboard

  8. GodSponge
    June 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I don't like the metro UI at all, but the chance to run real desktop apps on a tablet are worth it to me. Definitely getting a Surface Pro when they come out. I'm saving for it now :)

  9. Clint
    June 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I would like to add my piddly 2 cents here. I own a windows 7 phone and compared to an android or iphone, it basically sucks. It looks like a colored kiddy toy for all its intended usage. I hate it (I HATE IT!!!!). That being said, I have also been privy to the Windows 8 OS. Hmm it's the windows 7 phone OS. As far as touch capabilities are concerned, sure it will be a nice feature. But I don't really care much for the simplistic views MS OS 8 is about to force onto the market. In a world of inundated with visual data, it would seem MS is going the other route. I don't personally understand the concept. I would think people would want more robust looking interfaces. Something cool and futuristic not blase and unremarkable and truly easily forgettable.
    That being said, I feel MS OS 8 will be very frustrating for the majority of consumers. Working in the tech field supporting the MS Retail Stores, I know full well the issues of its software and especially the Surface (previous table model). We test ran the MS OS 8 beta and way too many people wondered, where is my desktop?
    I say to MS, make it clean. Make it superior. Make it stand out among the competition. And by all means, make the damn thing work!

    • Roman
      June 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      The UI is no big deal. The traditional UI is available. There will be the option of using the traditional Desktop enviroment, available as a Metro app, giving you a full, usable windows 7-esque user experience. If improvements are continually made on security, stability, and virus prevention (thank god for service packs and Security Essentials), then I have no problem using Windows 8. Just as long as I get to keep my beautiful desktop, I'm okay with upgrading (I am getting a 24 inch touchscreen anyways, so 8 will take better advantage of that).
      I watched my tech friends play with Windows 7 at first, kinda confused where the desktop went. I knew Microsoft couldn't betray us like that, and lo and behold, a Metro App that reverts to the original UI. so good day, sir. I am 14 years old.

  10. Terafall
    June 24, 2012 at 3:49 am

    I don't see any good reason to switch to Windows 8.It's just a remodeled Windows 7 with Metro and more restriction like secure boot and Internet Explorer only in Windows RT.Plus I don't see how I can use a CD/DVD without using Portable DVD Drive

    • James Bruce
      June 24, 2012 at 8:14 am

      You still use CDs/DVDs? I can't honestly say I've touched one in years, other than to reinstall an OS on an old PC. I don't actually own any physical media anymore, sold them all off ;)

      • Clint
        June 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        I have to say one more thing. Please don't take offense. But I hope you have all your data stored in a secure place (other than the touted cloud). You do realize that cloud data is way less secure and more prone to issues beyond your control. Who is to say the cloud servers won't just fail one day. Then where are you without your physical media and backed up data?

        Also, the cloud is reminiscent of the old server / client based computing when you had to log remotely to an AT&T server and TS with your client. Who controls access then? Can anyone see the future of MS OS access? Possibly that of fee based services? I for one will stick with my personal desktop and keep my files alive and kicking on my own internal server systems and yes CD/DVD back ups.

        • James Bruce
          June 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

          I use 3 different backup locations, one of which is in the cloud; and I believe the actual stats on data retention of cloud backups vs DVDs is actually quite damning. Most cheap DVD-R will be unreadable in a few years; quite apart from the fact that it's hideously un-environmentally friendly.

        • Quirk
          June 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm

          Supporting a server farm is more eco-friendly than having a stack of DVDs on my desk?

  11. Shehan Nirmal
    June 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I love windows 8...

  12. venkatp16
    June 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    i think Windows 8 has to do the magic for surface to win the market.... but surely surface will have good market because of the percentage of people familiar with windows... :)

  13. Peter James Escobar
    June 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    New Era of competition for Microsoft SURFACE they are going to try to be the iPad killer

  14. Bishal Mahat
    June 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    i am surely gona buy that after the release
    so plz inform me about the release when you know it

  15. Fayz
    June 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    The cover/keyboard got me interested. I'd really like to see that in action! c:

  16. Dylan
    June 22, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Its sad that nobody talks about desktop pcs anymore.

  17. Keefe Kingston
    June 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I'm looking more forward to the ASUS Transformer AiO then Microsoft's Surface. Why? It dual boots both Windows 8 (not that Windows RT stuff. Don't get me wrong, it may be good for some people, but I want a tablet with equal features to my desktop/laptop), and Android. Yes, it could be a pain switching back and forth, but I like the look of Windows 8 (on a tablet that is. On my laptop, I'm sticking with Windows 7), and Andriod isn't my piece of cake (however, I've never had alot of time to play around with it, and so I wish i could get to know it better, so I can make a judgment call then). I wish Microsoft would have pursued the Courier instead of this. It was unique, and would have stood out better from the iPad. The iPad didn't get to where it was just because of it's Apple fanbase, but their ability to stand out from the crowd, while others copy. However, at the same time, I applaud other companies for creating tablets, as it creates enough of a selection for people to choose from, and competition. The only problem is with Microsoft doing this, is that they seem to be trying to see which will work better: if other companies tablets running Windows works better, or if they do them themselves, they will be more successful. That may be nice there experimenting, but like someone else said...they're going to end up making their OEMs mad.

    • James Bruce
      June 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      I admit, the Transformer looks kind of awesome. I would say it's only that and the Surface Pro thats going to be gain any traction in the market. I do feel sorry for other OEMs though; how many more people are does MS need to be hated by?

      • Keefe Kingston
        June 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm

        I would have to agree with that. It's not that I hate Windows RT. It would be good for those who want stuff simple. However, I am not a simple computer user. I like control over my device. I want it to do what I want it too, not what a company says I should do with it. And Windows RT just looks like the lite version of Windows 8 (probably because it is), with a clear border decked around it (until we learn to root/jailbreak Windows RT). Like I said, I don't want an over-sized smartphone, I want a portable computer (and yes, we have laptops. But if I asked you to read an email on a park bench, which device do you think would be easiest to use? Also, my laptop is very heavy, since it's a gaming one.). It seems Microsoft has been making a few mistakes lately with Windows 8, IMO. I just hope they can pull this off for their sake. I may not like all their decisions, but I still love Windows alot.

    • tbc
      June 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      the Asus Tranformer AiO? isn't that thing 18.4 inches?

      • Keefe Kingston
        June 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm

        I think. I know that may be big, but I don't really care how big the tablet screen is, as long as it's not too small. After all, all tablets shouldn't be the same size, as people are different, and may prefer bigger screens. And so I think it's nice companies are giving us a selection to chose from, instead of basically saying "this is the only size your gonna get, because we say so".

  18. Ben
    June 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Can't wait to get my hands on the Pro version and yea I think Surface is going to give the iPad a run for it money!

  19. steved
    June 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Seems like M$ spent more money on the commercial than on design functionality. What is it supposed to replace? Not an iPad because it has extra detachable parts and will be inherently non-portable. Can you picture someone in an airport trying to keep the parts together between flights?

    • Pat
      June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      What "extra detachable parts"? The stand is built-in and the keyboard & cover is similar to many of the iPad covers - attaches magnetically.

      If I can do some serious work on it, and get data on and off easily, and have the option of SD and USB storage - I would switch from my present "iPad + a netbook" setup - one less item to carry round, and one less power adapter.

      Basically I want a work-thing I can also pay with, not a plaything I can try to make work.

      • muotechguy
        June 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

        Something tells me that stand will be the first thing to break....

  20. dplusy
    June 21, 2012 at 4:39 am

    windows 8 is suitable for surface, but not for pc or laptop

    • GodSponge
      June 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Agreed. Metro UI is still ugly though.

  21. Maik
    June 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I love the look especially Of d keyboards, I've been on the look out for an affordable tab, because the iPad is a little out of my reach for now. I'll only consider buying if it very affordable, say $250

  22. Manide
    June 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I hope it will be the best Microsoft product.
    I dislike the name itself: SURFACE...
    After all, the competition is good for customers.

  23. Cesar Mancilla
    June 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Great cover with keyboard!

  24. kaylee
    June 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    the real video..can't get anything to work

  25. Gonçalo Ferreira
    June 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    It's more a Asus Transformer rival than Ipad.

    • Yang Yang Li
      June 21, 2012 at 1:20 am

      Ohhh...that's bad.
      You just compared Apples (hehe) to Oranges to Tangerines.
      The Transformer is an Android Tablet, the Ipad is an Apple, and Surface is a Microsoft Tablet PC. They are all very different.
      I bet the Pro will be very popular with the business market because it runs Windows.

      • James Bruce
        June 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

        No, the Surface for Windows RT only runs Metro apps and is locked down, just as the ipad is. It's a fiar comparison. The pro model is clearly just a touchscreen ultrabook though...

        • Yang Yang Li
          June 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm

          The way you put it it's fair. In my defense, I was thinking about the Pro the whole time. I didn't give a second thought to Windows RT.
          I'm glad to see someone view the Surface as a ultrabook!

    • Yang Yang Li
      June 21, 2012 at 1:20 am

      Ohhh...that's bad.
      You just compared Apples (hehe) to Oranges to Tangerines.
      The Transformer is an Android Tablet, the Ipad is an Apple, and Surface is a Microsoft Tablet PC. They are all very different.
      I bet the Pro will be very popular with the business market because it runs Windows.

  26. Reý Aetar
    June 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Again another tab pc what is special in it that ms thinks people will buy it

    • Andri Agassi
      June 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      I will.

    • Douglas Mutay
      November 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      Off course people will... and I will probably buy one too. Just waiting a little...