Remember Microsoft Surface?
Well, that fancy tabletop platform may be forever stuck in a state of boardroom/restaurant/nightclub limbo, but the Windows company has repurposed the moniker for a more pressing (if less fitting) product initiative. Yes, Microsoft is calling their new in-house tablet series “Surface,” and they spent last evening showing off the first two entries.
Curiously, however, only one of them is a direct iPad competitor. Dubbed Surface for Windows RT, the tablet features a Tegra-based ARM processor, USB 2.0 connectivity, a 10.6-inch capacitive display, 32GB or 64GB capacities, and the Windows RT (think Metro) OS.
The other model, Surface for Windows 8 Pro, is slightly thicker, sporting an Intel Core i5 processor, USB 3.0 connectivity, an upgraded 10.6-inch capacitive display (in full 1080p), 64GB and 128GB capacities, and the full version of Windows 8 Pro.
Unfortunately, Engadget reports, when it comes to pricing,
Microsoft is shying away from specifics, only saying that “pricing for Surface for Windows RT will be on par with other Windows RT tablets,” and “pricing for Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be on par with Ultrabook-grade laptops.”
While nobody outside Redmond knows how much these tablets will go for come launch, we’re pretty sure that Microsoft’s statements put the RT version somewhere in the $500 to $700 range and the Windows 8 Pro version well past the thousand-dollar mark.
But none of that matters.
What does matter is how downright decent the things look:
Color me impressed!
I haven’t been this intrigued by an Apple-competing tablet since, well, ever. And it’s not just the operating system here, either. Sure, Windows Phone 7 (and by extension Windows RT) has long been my second choice of mobile OS, but there’s something else that feels right about the Surface family. Whether it’s the fact that Microsoft actually avoided going the blatant iPad ripoff route with these tablets’ clean-cut industrial designs (see Samsung, it is possible!) or just the promise of some real (well, not really, but you know what I mean) iPad competition for a change, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the awesome, appropriately adapted Windows logo sitting front and center on the tablet’s dark bezel (and rear kickstand). Maybe it’s the Surface’s Smart Cover-like keyboard accessories. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because Microsoft is finally figuring out that Apple’s approach — that is, building for and marketing a product’s look, feel, and general usability over its (often meaningless) component benchmarks — is actually worth emulating. From the same Engadget piece:
Microsoft’s playing coy when it comes to both CPU speed and available memory. … We’re guessing that the company will try to push the user experience instead of focusing on pure specifications, and it’s frankly about time the industry started moving in that direction. Pure hardware attributes only get you so far, and judging by the amount of integration time that went into this project, Microsoft would be doing itself a huge disservice to launch anything even close to not smooth-as-butter.
And Microsoft, after playing mobile catch-up for the better part of five years, is finally on the right track (provided they didn’t just undermine all their Windows RT/8 OEM partners). I doubt they’ll ever dethrone Apple, but I also doubt that’s the company’s goal.
Some folks say second place is the first loser. On the surface, that might be true.
But with Microsoft Surface, that’s a good place to be.