Even I’m impressed by Microsoft’s new Surface Tablet

So Microsoft announced their new tablet this evening, and it looks like they managed to pull off a miracle. MS not only demoed a decent tablet, they managed to develop one that looks to be better than the iPad. Normally I'd have sat out this story and let the many other gadget blogs cover it, but I am in fact so impressed that I couldn't help but say so.

First up is the cover. If the iPad 2 has a smartcover, the Surface has a genius cover. It not only attaches magnetically, this cover also has a built in keyboard and trackpad.  the buttons aren't physical, so it could have some impact on usability, but it is infinitely better than the cover on the iPad 2.

And yes, that is a big cover for a 10" tablet; the tablet is tilted back in this photo so it looks shorter.

We know it's a 10" tablet but I've read several first-hand reports and none have mentioned the exact specs; TechCrunch even said that MS was being coy. At this point all I know is that there will be 2 versions of the tablet, one running Windows 8 Pro and the other running Windows RT.

What little we do know is that the tablet on display this evening was nigh on the weight and thickness of the new iPad. Everyone is reporting that the Surface tablet is 9.3 millimeters thick and weighs 1.5 pounds.(Can you just picture what was going on in Cupertino when that news broke?)

Microsoft hasn't released specific details on ship dates but  they did say that the Windows RT models will come in 32GB and 64GB versions that are supposed to be priced on the level of ARM-based tablets. They'll be available around the time of the release of Windows 8.  The Windows 8 Pro models will come in 64GB and 128GB iterations and be available three months after the release of the Windows RT models.

Do you know those reports that the Windows RT license will cost $90?  I'm now betting that that rumor referred to the license for the full version of Windows 8. It looks to me like Windows RT really will be the Reduced Tech version it's supposed to be.

Now that we've gotten all excited about the hardware, let me inject a dose of pessimism. The tablets that ship might be no where near as capable or pretty as this one is. Even if they are, we still don't know if they'll be able to match the battery life of the iPad.

Nevertheless I cannot wait to get one and see if it measures up.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

30 Comments

  1. digital reader fan18 June, 2012

    I was impressed too. Looks real nice.

    Reply
  2. Mario19 June, 2012

    Windows RT?

    Reply
  3. Mario19 June, 2012

    Nevermind, didn’t read whole text before posting…

    Reply
  4. fjtorres19 June, 2012

    The Tablets to ship under the MS brand will be like that, yes.
    These are not (merely) reference designs to show what the software can do; they are a look at what they intend to ship. That is why they harped on the *two* keyboard covers. One of which is thicker to allow key travel.
    The RT version looks interesting (microSD and Micro HDMI and all that) but the version that most appeals to me is the x86/ultrabook equivalent; even at $700-900 that is one sweet and useful computer. The key is the *pen* support.
    At last a true successor for my aged and dying Compaq TC1000.
    The timing is good, cause I was thinking of getting a new computer for the fall.

    Reply
    1. fjtorres19 June, 2012

      Quickie overview with nice pics from MSNBC:

      Official site:
      http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/gallery.aspx

      Here’s some specs:

      x86
      OS Windows 8 Pro
      Light 903 g
      Thin 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

      ARM
      OS Windows RT
      Light 676 g
      Thin 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 Home & Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type Cover
      Practical VaporMg Case & Stand
      Configurable 32 GB, 64 GB

      It looks like the RT version will run a 720p (or better?) screen and the x86 will run a 1080p screen.

      Reply
      1. fjtorres19 June, 2012
        Reply
  5. curiosity killed the...19 June, 2012

    i sat there watching 2 live blogs furiously typing out the event as it unfolded today then once it was over i probably spent a good hour or so looking up the prices of comparable ultra books to get a better understanding of the price range they vaguely mentioned for the pro.

    here’s how i see it going down in the next month or 2 when they finally release a price and date.
    ive been following the trend of android tablets now for close to 2 years so i know a thing or 2 about prices how they rise big then fall if they dont live up to the hype.
    however windows is different they have quite a few hurdles to overcome in the arm version the biggest one being app selection as compared to android and apples huge app stores. granted i know the vast majority of windows 7 phone apps will most likely be ported as a short term store filling a corner ,but if they dont want to fall to the prey to the fates of the hp touchpad and blackberry playbook they really need to impress at launch date when it comes to app selection.
    as for the x86 intel version i am honestly impressed with everything they showed today however the price is the big thing the driving force in alot of peoples decissions about which tablet to buy and unfortunately for the masses windows will be playing catch up to apples high end price schemes.
    heres how i see the prices unfolding.
    windows surface rt 32mb $400-450
    windows surface rt 64mb $450-550
    windows surface 8 pro 64mb $550-650
    windows surface 8 pro 128mb $650-750

    heres why i think the rt brands will be around those prices. the 2 compareable tablets on the market today are the ipad 3 and the asus transformer prime (sorry i know i own a toshiba thrive but that is not the norm lol)
    the ipad is obviously in this locked $500 price range since the 1st ipad came out so thats a no brainer.
    and the transformer is like the best selling highend android tablet on the market and has a comparable keyboard.
    if microsoft wants to be competitive they will follow a very similar price point undercutting the ipad hopefully by a good $50 on the lowest spectrum and working their way up the chain with similar results. microsoft is not afraid to eat some profit margin to get a new venture established firmly especially one that they havent ventured into officially since the early 2000s. ever wonder why apple was building such a large coffer and not paying back the stock holders? they were preparing for the battle ahead that will start holiday season this year because there is going to be 1 hell of a storm between the 2 behemoths and they both know it. unfortunately for apple from everything i saw today..they dont have a kickstand to prop themselves up so to speak. windows is coming and there is very little they can do about it when their next pad wont be out for another 9 months(just in time for windows surface 8pro)

    so the windsurfpro8(damn hope nobody has coined that yet)
    they said comparable to ultrabooks but from the looks of things they are going to again headbutt with ipad pricing and more than likely will not break the $800 mark.
    why? because alot of people not only dont have the money for a tablet in the price range higher than ipads larger memory. windows tablets have bombed time and time again when they raised it in that $900-1000 range and if they have a brain in their head they will not push the public with another speculatively superior 1st generation machine and then claim if you really want it you’ll just pay us these prices and stop whining.
    to be perfectly honest when they are now competing against ultrabooks in price range and in alot of ways alienating their current hardware manufacturers by joining the tablet hardware race they are going to see some stiff competition against these companies that have been in the race for years and years and know as long as they cut below the big guys they can still survive till the next innovation pushes them to spend alittle more on a new device.

    in conclusion windsurfpro8 is the big gamble here for price fitting. they screw that up the arm just might suffer along with them.
    the windsurfrt however seems like app app app will be the succeed or die moment.
    if they come out strong? windows will grab that 20% 1st year market they are striving for. apple will loose 15% of that android will loose 5% because frankly nobody can compete with androids lower end spectrum apple is enjoying rulling the top but windows will squeeze in mid/top price ranges and squeeze apple down while android continues to squeeze from below.

    Reply
    1. Bob19 June, 2012

      32/64GB I hope you meant?

      Reply
      1. curiosity killed the...20 June, 2012

        lmao cant change it now but yes gb >.> wrote that late one night wasnt 100% there

        Reply
  6. Sweetpea19 June, 2012

    Now, this might be a good tablet to get. I’ve been searching for a nice Windows tablet for years, and this might be the ticket!

    Reply
  7. Lynne Connolly19 June, 2012

    It won’t need apps. It will be able to load full programs. What boggled my mind was realizing that you should be able to load things like Photoshop on this, without compromising. That, with the pen capability will make this an amazing artist’s tool.
    It will come with Windows 8 and Student Office (about time – I bought a top of the range ultrabook, and I was a bit miffed to find only Office Starter on it).
    Will I buy one? I don’t know. My ultrabook is amazing, and a joy to use, with a bigger screen. I have a 7 inch tablet and a Nook for reading, so my portable needs are more or less fulfilled. I even have a keyboard for the tablet.
    Who am I kidding? I can’t wait to get my hands on this thing.

    Reply
    1. fjtorres19 June, 2012

      Artist tool, yes.
      Writer’s tool.
      Proofer’s tool.
      Editor’s tool.
      eBook reader; start with Calibre, add in K4PC, Coolreader3, Adobe DE, Nook and Kobo.
      Should be great for comics.
      Academic reader? Start with OneNote. Any off the proprietary etextbook apps. Full Adobe Acrobat.
      It is a full PC with full pen and keyboard support. If the batery life is good enough, the note-taking and annotation features alone will make it a killer College Pad.
      Basically, the windsurf is what iPads want to be when they grow up.

      It’ll be a long wait til oct…

      Reply
      1. Nate Hoffelder19 June, 2012

        “Basically, the windsurf is what iPads want to be when they grow up.”

        When the iPad launched, many of us wanted an OSX tablet. Instead Apple released a 9.7″ iPod Touch. As you can see from last night’s news, Microsoft learned from that mistake.

        Reply
        1. kalel66619 June, 2012

          Apple sold 11.8 million ipads last quarter. Some mistake.

          Reply
          1. fjtorres19 June, 2012

            Not a mistake for Apple–they’re making money hand over fist.
            But a mistake for those that thought an iPad could replace a laptop.
            A friend of mine dropped $900 on an iPad and accessories (keyboard, carry case, special pen, software, etc) trying to make a TabletPC out of an iPad.
            Eventually gave up and got a netbook.

    2. Nate Hoffelder19 June, 2012

      Minor nitpick: An app is a full program. The words are synonyms.

      Reply
  8. Mike Cane19 June, 2012

    I don’t see any market for the Windows RT one. Everyone is excited over the Pro version, which can also run real desktop apps. The more I think about the RT version, I don’t understand the point now. We expected full 8 tablets to be clunky ugly things. MS has changed that with its sleek design and Type Cover. I think RT tablets will be gathering dust and there will be a hella shortage of the Pro version. All those Windows users who settled for a MacBook Air will now want the Pro one.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder19 June, 2012

      WinRT can run full Win8 apps. What it cannot do is run older apps from Windows 7 and before.

      Reply
      1. Mike Cane19 June, 2012

        WRONG. RT is ARM-based. Programs for full 8 are INTEL-based.

        Reply
        1. fjtorres19 June, 2012

          Uh, no.
          Win 8 Metro apps *will* run.
          Visual studio automatically compiles both versions.

          Quote from WinSupersite:
          “App compatibility. All Metro-style apps, including those that are bundled with the OS and those that the user downloads or purchases from the Windows Store, will run on both WOA and traditional Windows 8 devices. Without getting into the technical details, the short version is that developers only need to write their code once and Visual Studio 11 will compile it automatically for both platforms. When a user does purchase a Windows 8 app, they can install it on up to 5 Windows 8 devices. These can include any mix of WOA and x86-based machines.

          Application (in)compatibility. Third party Win32/Explorer style applications–that is, all applications sold and made today, will not work on WOA systems. They cannot be ported to WOA, and cannot be made available in any way to WOA users. In WOA, Microsoft is only providing the basic desktop features from Windows 8 (file management, task manager and so on), the desktop version of Internet Explorer 10, and special versions of key Office 15 applications (see below).

          Furthermore, WOA systems will not support running x86-based applications in emulation or virtualization (and Hyper-V is not part of the WOA versions of Windows 8).”

          Legacy apps won’t run but the new Metro apps *will* run.

          Reply
        2. Thomas19 June, 2012

          It depends on your definition of programs for full 8. Apps that are written for metro and sold thru Microsoft’s version of an App store will be automatically compiled and will run on either RT or Win 8. Apps written for x86 or x64 (including all pre-metro programs) will not run on RT.

          The question of if an app that you like will run on RT is “will the app’s maker rewrite his app for Metro or continue to use x86/x64”.

          Reply
          1. Thomas19 June, 2012

            Also, AFAIK, Metro apps can only be downloaded from the Windows Store. The Windows Store has some fairly tight requirements about running on low-end devices, so there will likely be a lot of x86/x64 apps and games that won’t be able to be rewritten for Metro.

      2. Mike Cane19 June, 2012

        Keep up:

        >>>So I’m guessing that apps designed for Windows 8 — or older version of Windows — won’t run in Windows RT. You are correct. Programs designed for Windows 8, the operating system that runs on devices powered by Intel’s x86/64 processors, will not only not run on Windows RT, they’re not even allowed to try.

        http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9228202/FAQ_All_about_Windows_RT_the_OS_behind_a_Microsoft_tablet

        Reply
        1. Nate Hoffelder19 June, 2012

          Damn. Then what’s the point of Windows RT?

          Reply
          1. fjtorres19 June, 2012

            No, you’re right; they’re wrong.
            In any Windows debate, WinSupersite trumpts computerworld. 😉

  9. george19 June, 2012

    Can the WinRT multi-task properly? I believe to date only the Blackberry Playbook can

    Reply
    1. Bob19 June, 2012

      Well, its running window.

      Reply
    2. fjtorres19 June, 2012

      Yes. Full premptive multi-threaded execution.
      That is old hat for Windows Enbedded: WinCE was doing it ten years ago.
      It is the exact same kernel as x86 Windows; it just lacks the older Win32 APIs.
      WinRT is not a glorified Phone OS but rather a slimmed down *desktop* OS.

      Reply
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