Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft Surface Tablets "surface" the Future of Windows Computing

Microsoft has just announced their first self-made and branded tablets: the Surface. A high quality, carefully designed and manufactured tablet that shows that Microsoft is stepping up to protect its own software ecosystem, and in a sense, mimicking what Apple has been doing for so long.
The idea is to have a device capable of taking Windows anywhere, and it will be available in two versions: one powered by an ARM CPU, running Windows 8 RT; and another with a Intel CPU, running the "full" Windows 8 Pro.
Design wise, both models are identical, with the Intel version being slightly thicker (13.5mm vs 9,3mm). And although both use a 10.6" screen, the Windows RT will have a HD screen (720?) leaving the FullHD screen to the Intel version, which also gets USB 3.0. Both models will introduce unprecedented WiFi signal strentgth, thanks to its double antennae (MIMO) - claims MS.

After so much effort has been put into making current touchscreens scratch-proof with Gorilla Glass and the likes, Microsoft takes it a step further and uses a "VaporMg" magnesium alloy that they say is also scratch proof. No matter if it that's the case, the truth is that indeed it looks very high quality.

But this Surface tablet(s) come with some surprises. For starters, it comes with an integrated kickstand that you can flip open or close at any moment's notice. This stand will keep the screen tilted at 22º - and MS has designed its rear camera so it stays leveled at this positioned. Microsoft said the hinges were carefully designed in order to be robust and offer a "luxury car door" feel when you pop it open or close. Once again... it does look great.

But, other than the stand, there were a few nice tricks waiting for us. Instead of providing simple magnetic "smart covers" like we have on the iPad, the Surface offers protective covers with integrated keyboards.

The Touch Cover is only 3mm thick, and offers a full multitouch keyboard  and trackpad. It can even measure the amount of pressure on its keys, in order to tell the difference between actual key presses and you resting your palm over it. If you prefer physical keys, Microsoft also has you covered, with the slightly thicker Type Cover.

Both cover-keyboards are smart enough to know when they're being used or put away behind the tablet - because, let's not forget it... the Surface is a tablet.

But not all went well in Microsoft's "new" Surface presentation. The event was severely delayed (nearly 40 minutes), and - as some would predict - one of the tablets decided to stop working during the presentation, promptly being replaced by a backup unit. But, worst of all, Microsoft failed to announce a precise date for it to reach the market, and equally important... how much will it cost?
MS simply said that the ARM version will be available at the time of Windows 8 launch, with "competitive" pricing; and the other one arriving a few months later, with a price competitive with similar ultrabooks.

Even so, I think this is actually a great move and a big step forward for Microsoft. A move that may be doomed to fail in its first attempt (just like Apple's own first MacBook Air)... but that will eventually succeed, and in the process paving the way for all the future generations of windows computers.

When you think about it, most people would do just fine with such a Windows Surface (the Intel version with full Windows 8 pro under the hood). Something that you can't currently do with any of the popular tablets out there (just try running Autocad, or a full Photoshop suite, or even a browser as good as a "desktop OS" Chrome browser. At least for me it would be the perfect tool! A powerful tablet for most of the day, but able to turn it into a full-fledged "traditional" computer whenever I need it.

Even if it fails (and I'm not saying it will)... I think this is already a big win for Microsoft in the long run.

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