At a press event Microsoft showed off a tablet that is about the same weight and thickness as an iPad, with a 10.6-inch screen. The device has a built-in “kickstand” that allows it to be propped up for watching movies, and a thin detachable cover that will serve double duty as a keyboard.
The Surface tablet runs a variation of Windows 8, a version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system that is due out in the fall. Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said the product was part of a longstanding tradition at Microsoft to create hardware, like computer mice, that show off innovations in its software.
With its new tablet, Microsoft will effectively be competing directly with its biggest customers.
In the computer business, it has for decades left the work of creating machines that run Windows to Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others.
But the response to Apple’s iPad has considerably raised consumers’ expectations of how well hardware and software work together.
That has put pressure on Microsoft to create a tighter marriage of hardware and software if it is to compete seriously with Apple’s products.
The iPad already has eaten into sales of low-end Windows laptops, and there are growing signs that Apple’s tablet is becoming increasingly attractive to business customers, a lucrative market Microsoft has dominated for years.
Microsoft said one version of the Surface tablet would come with 32 gigabytes or 64 gigabytes of storage and the price would be comparable to that of other tablets that use ARM chips.
A professional version of the tablet would come with an Intel processor, which is standard in more conventional PCs, and would be similar in price to ultrabooks, thin laptops that often start at around $1,000.
The keyboard could make Surface more competitive with Apple’s thin MacBook Air and more traditional Windows laptops. It will come in a variety of bright colors, adding a whimsical touch to the dark, hard-edged appearance of Surface.
One thing that will most likely limit sales of the tablet is Microsoft’s initial plan to sell it only in the company’s own retail stores, along with its Web store. Microsoft has opened 20 stores, and five more are coming soon.
Question: Do you really think Microsoft’s tablet will challenged the iPad?