Late yesterday, 18 June, saw Microsoft's much hyped press conference for the "big announcement". The event itself was small, with selected attendees not even being told the location until a few hours before the event -- mostly to generate excitement I suspect.
So the big announcement .... the Microsoft Surface, aka a tablet.
It was interesting to watch the announcement unfold. Microsoft talked about hardware and focused on input devices, specifically the introduction of the mouse all those years ago. They discussed their ecosystem and bringing everything together. Then Steve Balmer produced the Surface. A quick dance around the dimensions and screen, etc. Next the cover -- very similar looking to the Apple smart cover; it attached to the device via magnets but their big bang is a keyboard built into the seven layers which make up the very thin "Touch cover". It also sports a "Kick stand" which is simply a built in, flip out stand.
To be honest, it looks very nice and could be just the difference Microsoft are looking for -- they certainly think so given the focus seemed to be on input (looking back at the presentation overall). Interestingly the cover has options -- flat, or more pronounced keys and a touch-pad. There is also a stylus!
There was very little time afforded to the actual detail of the device, but the Microsoft Surface website now has some specs.
Basically it will run Windows 8 (Metro or RT) on Intel or ARM processor; will come with 32, 64, or 128 Gb storage; 10.6 inches 600 dpi screen.
There are a few problems already, in my view
- Too much choice possibly - operating system version, processor, storage, cover?
- It will not please hardware vendors that MS are entering into the tablet market with their own device. MS can in theory undercut vendors as they do not need to pay themselves a license for the software.
- It appears slightly heavier than its main competitor -- weight is often important
- So far everything we have seen is in landscape (wide mode) -- will it flip to portrait for long documents/web pages? Certainly the Touch Cover will not work in portrait
What was not announced at the event was pricing or shipping dates -- two things which everyone expects. Obviously it will not ship before the launch of Windows 8 (which does not have a ship date yet either, but is speculated as September time). The price is anyone's guess. It will certainly not be entry-level and is more than like to be towards the high-end of the market.
This is a significant step for Microsoft as their current business is based around licensing software. Their track record in hardware is not great -- think of the Zune which would change the world but is now discontinued. Remember the Kin or the Smart Watch? Probably not! They have had far greater success with the xBox.
In fairness the Surface looks interesting and can hopefully make a mark on the world -- it will all depend on price and how successful Windows 8 and third-party software are.
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