Microsoft Surface Tablet Takes On iPad, Android

Microsoft Surface tablet

Microsoft today introduced Surface, their response to the Apple iPad and Android tablets.

And it looks like the world of tablets is going to get a lot more interesting, fast.

Microsoft positions Surface as ‘a new family of PCs for Windows’, very different than they way Apple has positioned the iPad as a ‘post-pc’ device. And Microsoft seems to be doing a good job of executing their vision, introducing a stylish tablet that nevertheless emphasizes the company’s Windows strengths.

Two models of Surface will be available:

  • one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT; and
  • one with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro.

Microsoft Surface looks like it could be a very interesting development in the world of tablet computers. Microsoft is taking a different approach than Apple, imagining tablets as ultra-lightweight PCs. This vision could be compelling for a lot of Windows users. And, if pricing is right, Surface could put the squeeze on Android tablets.

We’ll be very interested to see how Surface for Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro develops as a music platform. Check out the details and let us know what you think!

Here’s what Microsoft has to say about Microsoft Surface:

Conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware, Surface represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity. Extensive investment in industrial design and real user experience includes the following highlights:

Software takes center stage: Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out.

VaporMg: The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.

Integrated Kickstand: The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.

Touch Cover: The 3 mm Touch Cover represents a step forward in human-computer interface. Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. It will be available in a selection of vibrant colors. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.

Here’s the Microsoft Surface intro video:

Additional Product Information

Surface for Windows RT

  • OS: Windows RT
  • Light(1): 676 g
  • Thin(2): 9.3 mm
  • Clear: 10.6” ClearType HD Display
  • Energized: 31.5 W-h
  • Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
  • Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB

Surface for Windows 8 Pro

  • OS: Windows 8 Pro
  • Light(1): 903 g
  • Thin(2): 13.5 mm
  • Clear: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display
  • Energized: 42 W-h
  • Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
  • Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB

Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.

54 thoughts on “Microsoft Surface Tablet Takes On iPad, Android

  1. I think this is great! Not only has microsoft embraced touch technology they have realized that we like tactile control as well. Smart move. Also usb port!!!

    1. Darn! Usually I can spot the smallest grain of irony from >10m, but I just can’t tell if you’re for real. *waah!*

  2. If MS tablets are going to run the same software as the desktop doesn’t that mean all the desktop software for W8 will have to be designed for touch? You can’t do multitouch gestures with a mouse tho so how will this even work? Eh…times like this I’m glad I use Apple.

  3. microsoft have an incredible opportunity to take a tinkle on apple and the ‘droid.

    for me it comes down to this; will existing programs on the windows platform run on it.. or will it be a new apple/android-type “app” standard. I guess I could solve this by googling, but who really has the consonants

    1. There are two types of Windows 8 tablets:

      WIndows RT tablets will run ARM chips & won’t really be compatible with anything, but they’ll be cheaper and more iPad-like.

      WIndows 8 Pro tablets will run Intel chips & will run WIndows apps. They’re going to be priced closer to ‘ultrabooks’. They won’t be powerhouses, but stake out some interesting new territory for Windows.

    1. When they say “pressure sensitive” it just means the keys don’t actually click down and move like on a keyboard. They’re just stuck there and when you finger lands on them they sense it. They’re not velocity sensitive.

    1. exactly. i find it sort of amusing the way windows constantly trails behind in any sort of tech trends.
      still find windows better in certain aspects than osx but the new metro looks again like an middle aged bald guy dressing in hip clothes and going to some youngsters party.

  4. The Pro version looks like a plausible mobile audio workstation / sketchpad? It’s got USB so the possibilities (instruments, controllers, interfaces) are endless I guess :). Since it’s running vanilla win8 most software should work fine as well? Thoughts?

    1. The ARM version will not run traditional apps; only Metro apps that will have to be developed specifically for this platform. It’s DOA for musicians.

      1. lol it’s gonna be funny to see what image-line does about this! looks like fl studio is going to be dead in the water come W8!

      2. Correct. So pricing will determine wether the Pro version is viable or not I guess. As for the ARM version, there might be apps developed specifically for this form factor, such as the myriad of iPad Music / MIDI apps out there, but that’s a different discussion…

    2. Any serious PC users won’t be using Windows8, Like me they will be sticking with Windows 7 and using FL Studio on that and previous Windows versions, I wont be going anywhere near Windows 8, I tried the preview and it sucks. By the time support for windows 7 stops who knows what FL studio will have produced on whatever platform is around.

  5. I will buy one if I can run my Avid D-Show / Venue editor on it, that software is the only reason I would ever spend money on windows products ever again

  6. wow. fragmented hardware and software right of of the gate, before you can even buy the damn thing?genius. what’s that you can hear? it’s the sound of raucous laughter from cupertino. this will be an iPad killer to exactly the extent that the zune was an iPod killer. assuming they ever even release it (anyone remember HP slate? the microsoft courier?). by the time they get this to market, iPad 4 will be out and no-one will even remember this

    1. The HP Slate was an HP product (right there in the name) and the Courier was never a product and was never announced – just leaked concept video. I think you’re missing the point entirely. The Pro version is really an ultra light PC. The software is only fragmented with respect to backwards compatibility. New software coded or upgraded to metro will work on both. You have to think major software vendors are already upgrading. Have you tried running Pro Tools 9 on the latest OSX? It doesn’t work, fanboy. Software naturally has to be upgraded with new OS advancements. That’s why they came out with Pro Tools 10. And guess what – if you got a new Mac you had to pay for the upgrade.

      1. this has exactly the same status as the courier until it ships. the keyboard they’re banging on about doesn’t actually, y’know, work, yet. nothing about battery life, cost, etc. and the courier wasn’t a video. they had a prototype and they showed that thing off. yes, obviously i know the slate was an HP product (right there in the name i typed), but at the time, MS pushed their involvement in the hardware design as a big deal.

        and for what it’s worth (nothing, since you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about), i use protools 9.0.6 on OS 10.7.4 every single day and it works like a charm. on a laptop, on an iMac and on a Mac Pro. I use 10.2 on 10.7.4 as well. also works like a charm.

        i’ve used protools on windows a couple of times. crashed. cost me time and my clients money. never again. which is why if you go anywhere where working and not crashing actually counts (pick a studio, post house or dubbing room that anyone important has heard of) and they’re using macs. this is still a fact, and its nothing to do with being a fanboy. it’s to do with being a professional.

        If I made my living in 3D / VFX or CAD or IT or banking or video editing, chances are i’d be using Windows or something bespoke. But I don’t, I make my living from recording and mixing music. The best, most reliable tools to do this are made by Apple.

        1. Hear hear! I worked 4 years with students in a classroom with 16 PC specially made for music with Cubase software. It was HELL! Every lesson was 50% searching for errors and 50% teaching. Last year we switched to iMacs with Logic=NO problems! Windows sucks big time and I have NADA respect for Microsoft!

      2. Saying this has the same status as the courier is moronic. The Courier was an incubation product that never got past the concept stage. MS never spoke of it publicly and the only thing that was ever seen of it was a leaked concept video that was clearly 100% mocked up, whereas they showed working prototypes of this at the event. And regardless of MS’s involvement with HP, it was HP’s decision not to ship the slate – subsequent to the Slate announcement they decided to put their eggs in the Touch Pad basket based on their Palm acquisition since they wanted to go it alone. Using this as a proof point to say that MS won’t ship this surface thing just shows you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

        Re: ProTools 9 – yes, looks like it was finally updated to work with OSX. I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro running 10.7.4 and PT9 would not run on it when I bought it so I had to go through an ordeal to update to PT10 (I guess I could have sat around and waited a couple of months for them to update PT9). Software (particularly complex, high end software) needs to be updated with major OS refreshes. That was my point.

        The whole “Oh I can’t run ProTools on a PC in a professional studio” line is completely beside the fact. Yes, a lot of audio software “works better” on a high end Mac than a high end PC. (Hence why I’m typing this on a Mac, but that being said for almost all at the hobby or semi-pro level they can get nearly identical results for a lot cheaper with a PC.) But that’s very different than your original statement about fragmented hardware.

        Do you enjoy running AniMoog on your Mac Pro? Oh no, that’s right, you can’t. Because the hardware is FRAGMENTED. iPad software is incompatible with Mac software. (And by the way, trying to integrate iPad music software into a real studio situation is a nightmare, rendering the iPad to “toy” status for music production.)

        The thing that they’re trying to do with Win8 that’s pretty interesting is bring the environments together so that you’re not limited to toy software on a tablet – you can run full versions of “real” programs if you like. Or, conversely, if you find a great tablet app like AniMoog, you can incorporate it into a full PC environment (rather than gerryrigging the thing through a Camera Connection Kit, etc.)

        Will this tablet replace my Mac Pro Tools setup in the studio? No. But is it likely that the iPad 3/4/5 or 6 will either? I seriously doubt it. Will this tablet serve as a replacement for my iPad + work PC laptop and have some additional musical composition functionality that works better than then iPad? I don’t know, but seems like it’s possible.

        1. “(And by the way, trying to integrate iPad music software into a real studio situation is a nightmare, rendering the iPad to “toy” status for music production.)”

          you are valid on some points but this statement ist such utter bollocks.
          i use ios as a sequencer or a soundmodule or both at the same time and its fabulous.
          syncing iphone and the ipads via wist, routing midi from beatmaker to animoog or sunrizer, or running a ims20 as a module for the octatrack, and alot, alot more. thats all before things should get even more serious with the ios6.

          i am not hating on this win tablet, infact i applaud it in a way since its all progress. but at this point everyone has to admit that ms is playing catchup all the time when it comes to this sort of stuff.

          calling ipad platform a toy is such an obsolete argument and has no base anymore whatsoever.

          1. To be fair, I got so frustrated at my early attempts to use AniMoog and the MS 20 iPad apps with my DAW setup that I gave up. Based on your comments maybe I’ll give it another try since I really do like AniMoog. (Oh and yeah no argument that MS is playing catchup big time, both at a macro level with tablets and at a more esoteric, on-topic level of appealing to musicians.)

            1. look, you seem like a reasonable chap (except when you’re calling me a moron or fanboy), and yeah, you’re probably right about the courier comparison. the point i was trying (and clearly failing) to make was that MS have a depressing history of releasing stillborn or incomplete hardware, and this looks likely to be such a thing. how come no price? no proper specs? no release date?

              regarding your other points : protools 9 – you’ve got the timeline wrong. 9.0.5 (officially a beta, but apart from cosmetic bugs, fully functional on 10.7) was released a couple of months after 10.7 came out (and unless you bought a brand new mac in that time, there wasn’t a compelling reason to upgrade to 10.7).. if you’d just bought a lion computer, you had a maximum wait of a couple of months (unlike windows 7 support). and i agree that 10 was a chisel, but the RAM caching alone is worth the upgrade price in my opinion

              regarding iOS apps not running on OS X, apple has been very clear that these are (for now at least) distinct eco-systems. MS is making very different claims for Windows 8. Apples hardware and software aren’t fragmented – they’re entirely different products. And as usual, MS have muddled the message. Metro’s the new UI, but wait, it’s actually not. It’s backwards compatible, but wait, it’s actually not.

              Apple have a lot of faults, but assuming a sensible level of caution, the transition from OS9 to OS X and PPC to Intel was pretty painless. Likewise the various cat upgrades have mostly been fine. I haven a nuts and bolts laptop that i haven’t clean installed since OS 10.2 (just did the transfer when i upgraded the machine) and it works absolutely perfectly. MS, by contrast, has botched almost every windows upgrade – i mean how many people just skipped from XP to 7?

              and, the way i understand it from a couple of amateur dev friends of mine, it’s a relatively trivial thing to port iOS apps to OSX if you build them in Xcode. Which is exactly what MS are touting for Win8 – use our dev tools and it’ll be trivial.

  7. They’ll stop production in a year. I love when people think MS makes anything that is an “Apple killer”. Uh, Zune and Micorsoft Phone, anyone? They are about 2 years too late to produce an “iPad” killer. How do you compete with a massive App Store and huge user base and a company like Apple that knows what they are doing 5-10 years into the pipeline. MS Pipeline = Continue to rip off Apple.

  8. How does no one realize this product doesn’t even best other win tabs available right now. Samsungs slate 7 is an i5 tab that is thinner, has a larger screen, and weighs the same AND has been out since 2011. AND it works well with win 8. AND it has waving pen tech not Microsoft’s bobo pen tech. This thing is nice and all and I would recommend it to those who want windows with touch functionality but the only thing this has that isn’t already available is a uncomfortable looking keyboard, magnetic pen, and 1080p at 10 in. Hardly noteworthy. AND the pro wont be out for 6 MONTHS!

    1. 1080p at 10 inches is a freaking marketing joke! LOL The human eye can’t even distinguish 1080p until the screen is over 42 inches (and even then it depends highly upon the viewer). All you are getting with 1080p at 10 inches is worse battery life

      1. Actually, 1080HD is not especially high pixel density on a 10″ screen – less than what Apple is using on iPhones, iPads & the new MacBook Pro.

        i’d worry more about the aspect ratio. Did you notice how none of the pictures show the Surface in vertical mode?

        They’ve optimized the tablet for watching movies, rather than for working.

  9. 1 – Perfectly engineered to land in a category nobody wants. Too weak to be a good laptop, and too clunky to be a good tablet.
    2 – It’s made by Microsoft, who traditionally does crap hardware. Be sure to buy the warranty, and be prepared for lots of repair issues. (It took them three years to get the XBox 360 stabilized!)
    3 – And you were going to run what software on it exactly? The touch interface will kill off existing windows software, and there won’t be many apps for long time (if ever) for the ARM version
    4 – The aspect ratio is crap for reading documents. That should have been design consideration #1.
    5 – The two versions are going to confuse the hell out of consumers, who are already generally sour on Microsoft
    6 – It will be overpriced, and by the time it comes to market all of the competition, both in ultra books and tablets, will have one and maybe even two product revs.

  10. This is just like the thread last week about ios6, where a bunch of people who had no more information than the same press release everyone else read were SO SURE it meant the death of audiobus….

  11. Fragmenting their own product line from the get-go is probably not the best tactic to win in this market space. It will be really difficult to build a self-perpetuating ecosystem when there isn’t interoperability and shared software between the members of the product family. They have money to throw at the problem, but the split product line will be its downfall.

  12. Why would anyone want these, when you can get a better tablet (iPad) for $400 or an extremely nice laptop (Macbook Air) for $1000?

    This is just Microsoft trying to keep Apple out of the corporate market.

  13. WTF!! What does the video have to do with any computer?
    I’m clearly out of touch with advertising.
    This made me want to go out and buy those little magnetic balls kids use.

  14. Congrats to Microsoft for coming up with something that isn’t just a rip-off of the iPad.

    Now they just have to do a bit better than Windows Phone has done against Android and the iPhone…

  15. 30-year history manufacturing hardware?

    Hmm, what hardware did Microsoft make in 1982? If I’m not mistaken, the MSX didn’t come out until 1983, and it wasn’t a huge success compared to, say the IBM PC. (Although if the Microsoft Surface gets anything as good as Metal Gear 1 and 2, maybe I will have to buy one!) 😉

  16. What’s this? I see Apple fanbois giving thumbs down to great posts 😀 .. And i’m writing this on MBP by the way, so… This seems like an interesting product. In theory it could run VSTs and you could plug your midi controller straight in. What’s to bash??

  17. years before the ipad1 came out my lenovo x61 multitouch tablet was running standalone vst
    – flstudio -live -and ni reaktor – i still use it and you can find them used for under $200

    why is a ipad better, why is the surface better – why do you have to pay +$500 to play music with your fingers

  18. To be honest I see a lot of wordplay going on, there was supposed to be a clear definition between apples and microsofts approach, then windows 8 rt popped up, it’s like the ipad just without the apps, so that whole no compromises ad campaign seems premature now. Then I get excited by the prospect of windows 8 pro tablets, especially with the stylus support built in, as I liked using a wacom tablet with logic, only to have the realisation that most won’t come with a discreet gpu, take a while for programs to get touch support and the pricing seems like it will hit laptop/air/ultrabook territory.

    Having extra ports is nice, especially for charging at the same time, but having a flexible port that can take care of most connections is also nice. I wonder if windows rt will be usb audio class compliant, if so and if music app devs get there stuff onto the marketplace it could be a viable alternative, but it’s looking like windows 8 pro will be more suited to musicians, have to wait and see what the pricing will be. The keyboard smart covers were a nice touch, but I’m fine with typing on a touch screen, I can see a few advantages with a separate keyboard, key commands, hot keys etc.

    It seems all microsoft has done is taken the approach it’s had with tablets since windows xp tablet ed and bolted what apples done with iphone/ipad and trackpads on top. But the one important distinction is apple focused dev’s to build apps with touch front and centre, which makes up for the ios devices limitations and did usher in a new era. Also taking elements from core audio and core midi on osx and some of the audio stuff that’s coming in ios 6 makes ipad a potent music tool, it’s nice having wifi midi built into osx and ios for example. So altho I have a bit of excitement for windows 8 the keynote for the surfaces seemed lacklustre, I might just upgrade my xp box and miss the tabs tho.

  19. ,Better Support for Multiple Monitors,Two Touch Keyboards.At the moment, still has many offers for Windows 8 customer. A long side with buying a cheapest key on the market, you also have the opportunity to receive discount couppon up to 30% to buy many items such as key for Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, Adobe Photoshop CS6, Windows 7 Ultimate and so on

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