Microsoft Surface: A True iPad Competitor?

Microsoft unveils its entry into the tablet market.
Business Writers
June 19, 2012

Apple iPad, meet the newest would-be challenger: the Microsoft Surface.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has finally stepped into the tablet ring, unveiling its product late Monday in a hush-hush event for 200 journalists in Los Angeles. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the invitation-only event that the company "wants to add another bit of excitement" to the Windows 8 story.

"We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects of the experience—hardware and software—are considered and working together," Ballmer added.

The event, however, provoked almost as many questions as it answered.

The Surface Specs

One aspect that is known is the specs of the new tablet. Built on the company’s new Windows 8 operating system, it will feature:

  • A 10.6-inch HD Gorilla Glass display

  • A built-in case/stand in a variety of colors

  • USB 2.0, MicroSD, and Micro HD Video ports

  • Dual Wi-Fi antennae (the strongest WiFi capability of any tablet, according to Microsoft's Windows chief Steve Sinofsky)

  • Multitouch keyboard and trackpad

And in terms of size, the new Surface is about a half-inch thick. The Surface for Windows RT weighs 1.4 pounds. Models will come with either 64 gigabytes or 128GB of storage.

The price, unfortunately, is still under wraps. According to Microsoft’s press release:

“Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC.” (Expect different pricing for the model running Windows RT and one on Windows 8 Pro).

Exact availability date is also unclear, with the company saying that, “Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later.” Microsoft has not announced when Windows 8 will launch, but the rumors say October.

In-House Design

The Surface was designed by Microsoft, which is notable given that as a software company, it has not done many hardware products—and some have failed miserably. (Remember the Zune, a failed iPod competitor or the Kin smartphone? Probably not.)

In this competition, Microsoft will be very much on the defense. Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told USA Today that in a market so dominated by the iPad, Microsoft "better tell you not only why (its tablet is) different but why different is better in terms of value and in terms of price."

Will you consider buying a Surface? Why or why not?

Photo credit: Microsoft