Microsoft Surface Tablet

On June 18th, 2012, Microsoft (MSFT) announced its Surface tablet computer in front of 200+ members of the media. The Surface tablet is a product consisting of all Microsoft made hardware and software. The product will be launched in the second half of 2012 with the first entrant being the Surface RT running a version of the Windows 8 operating system designed for ARM processors followed three months later by the Surface Pro running Windows 8 Pro designed for Intel processors.

The Surface RT weighs 1.5 pounds and is 0.37 inch thick. The Surface Pro weighs 2 pounds and is 0.53 inch thick. Both tablets come with a 10.6 inch screen wrapped in a solid magnesium case, front plus rear facing HD cameras and a built-in kickstand, so you can stand them up to watch movies or for general use. The tablet cover is attached to the tablet by magnets and the cover doubles in functionality as a touch-sensitive keyboard.

Pricing as well as launch dates have yet to be announced but the Surface RT price will be in line with other tablets such as the Apple iPad while the Surface Pro price will be in line with Ultrabook laptops.

Surface is positioned as an entertainment device (e.g. Netflix app) which allows existing applications to run on the device (e.g. Office, Photoshop) as well as future apps to be developed by the large base of Windows developers (from over the years). Surface will be playing catch-up to the large number of apps from the Android and iOS app marketplaces. Microsoft has to compete initially with a smaller number of quality apps (yet to be announced) along with existing software applications for Windows. This should allow it to compete in the home as well as in enterprise environments where tablets such as the Apple iPad are already in use.

If one has wondered about desktop computer vs tablet vs laptop (particularly the latter two in terms of mobility), one can draw the conclusion that Surface provides convergence of those platforms, leveraging existing software (apps) that already run on Windows while growing new apps over time.

In a Charlie Rose interview with Bill Gates, aired on July 2nd, 2012 on PBS, Gates saids:

"You don't have to make a compromise. You can have everything you like about a tablet and everything you like about a PC all in one device. And so that should change the way people look at things."

Whether or not Microsoft will succeed with the Surface hardware venture, I surmise their Windows 8 will succeed, although the hardware success will be a big boost to the success of Windows 8. This could trigger other manufacturers to do a similar device. Such competition ultimately translates to better product choices for consumers.

The keynote mentioned where the Surface can be purchased when it is launched but distribution channels are very limited. Surface needs to be conveniently available everywhere to give it the best chance of success.

The Surface has a touch screen with the ability to write on it using a Microsoft Surface pen (plus erase) and a keyboard which is essential. Not that I need it but it sure would be nice to have a Surface.

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