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Microsoft Announces 'Surface' Tablet 712

MrSeb was one of several submitters to write in about Microsoft's foray into the tablet hardware market. From the article: "At its much-discussed 'big unveil' this evening, Microsoft did indeed launch a tablet — but rumors that the device would showcase a Barnes & Noble partnership were misplaced. Instead, Microsoft showed a ... device that integrates a better keyboard option than typing on the screen without adding size or weight. That's where the new keyboard — which doubles as a screen cover — kicks in. At 3mm thick, it adds virtually nothing to the device's size, but it opens up a world of inputs. There are two covers available — the Touch Cover (very thin) and the Type Cover (with proper, tactile keys). Microsoft is touting the device's magnesium body, vapor-deposited construction, full PC functionality, and additional features like being the first tablet to showcase a 2×2 MIMO wireless antenna. Windows RT (ARM) and x86 versions are both in the works, with the x86 version apparently having a higher quality screen. No word on hardware specs yet; Microsoft is claiming it 'rivals the best ultrabooks' and uses less power than the Core i5." Microsoft has a launch site with a few pictures. There is a vague spec sheet: the x86 version is slightly thicker and has a larger battery (and comes with a pen) than the ARM tablet, but that's about all it reveals. Update: 06/19 16:06 GMT by T : Nick Kolakowski at GeekNet's SlashCloud says this may be Microsoft's best chance to compete in a cloud-centric mobile computing world.
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Microsoft Announces 'Surface' Tablet

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  • Neat cover ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hattig ( 47930 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:08AM (#40368171) Journal []

    IMO, the keyboard touchpad cover is an interesting (and required for Windows and Office) invention.

    But the low-resolution display (1366x768) on the ARM version is going to compare badly against the iPad 3 and upcoming Android tablets, and the pricing will have to reflect that.

  • Re:Neat cover ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:17AM (#40368237)

    IMO, the keyboard cover is just what is needed in the tablet space. It is the number 1 selling accessory for the iPad. But I can't shake the feeling that we're gradually building a laptop yet again. Remember the netbooks that started small, limited, and cheap. They gradually grew larger and more functional until they were basically laptops. Further back there were the handheld PC's that started very limited and gradually aded features like a color screen, networking stack, web browser, until they basically resembled mini laptops (albeit still limited in functionality.) Some of them even run Linux.

  • Re:We'll see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:27AM (#40368305) Homepage

    I am kind of excited, because unless they locked the bootloader, this will be a cool device for Ubuntu or another linux. Hell Let's install Android ICS on it.
    Android tablet hardware quality is pretty lacking, MSFT will certianly put out a device that is as nicely built as the ipad. And I really want a high end Android tablet.

  • Re:Neat cover ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:43AM (#40368443) Homepage

    All the flimsiness of a cheap USB keyboard would still be outweighed by that tacky cover.

    Nice idea to put the keyboard in a cover. But so ridiculously thin means it will either break or the underlying matrix will be destroyed long before the usable life of the product itself. And isn't it just recognition that tablet-only input is insufficient? All you've done is made a laptop with a fancy thin keyboard, in essence. And thin keyboards are hard to type nicely on (travel distance is one of the best metric for judging a keyboard), especially if they are on a hard surface (which is what this would need - so my portable tablet PC now needs a desk to hold the keyboard!)

    I have a roll-up-able keyboard in my parts cupboard. Useful for taking to people's houses to eliminate the keyboard as a problem. Although the keys are thicker, that seems to be through choice because the base surface and connectors are't, and yet it's waterproof, roll-able, costs literally pence, etc. And, despite being 90% rubber, that's infinitely more sturdy than that 3mm thick thing they expect you to type on.

    Having a keyboard is a good idea. The tablet obviously NEEDS a keyboard. Having THAT keyboard, and as your "cover" (so people will rely on it to fend off certain other objects) seems quite stupid.

    I still don't see the advantage of that over, say, a laptop or even just having the tablet on its own.

  • Interesting but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:47AM (#40368491)
    it looks more like a Macbook Air than an iPad, despite it's being a tablet. MS even says:

    Microsoft is claiming it 'rivals the best ultrabooks' and uses less power than the Core i5.

    which reveals the problem it faces:

    Despite being a tablet, the keyboard makes it a "computer" in the minds of a consumer; and yes I know the iPad is a computer but what's important is the psychological difference in the consumer's mindset and approach. A tablet is a portable device that does a lot of neat and useful things but isn't as full featured as a computer; so you are willing to accept tradeoffs such as no really powerful office suite that is fully compatible with the desktop version.,/P> That's one of the brilliant things about the iPad - it's design broke the user's mindset and created a new paradigm - complete with a new OS and user interface. MS, maybe because of its desktop centric worldview can't seem to understand that and has come out with a device that they may call a tablet but will probably be viewed by many as a computer; and unless they meet those user's expectations of what a computer s they may just have yet another netbook on their hands. We've seen what tablets did to the netbook market, and it will be interesting to see how this device fairs.

  • Re:Neat cover ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:52AM (#40368537) Homepage

    I dunno. Work bought a couple of iPads recently for developing a mobile app. While the high res display is non-obvious in things like the desktop or e-mail, anything graphical is quite obviously and noticeably better on the new screens. We pulled up satellite imagery in Google maps and were quite literally shocked by the quality of the images. This was without any lower res screens to compare with initially, it was just obviously better than what we had seen before. After a few minutes someone brought out an older iPad and someone else an older Android tablet so we could do a direct comparison. That made the quality more obvious, but even standing alone, the quality was impressive.

    Of course we're all computer professionals (programmers and systems people), and we work with graphics day to day, so maybe that's part of it. All in all, I was impressed. Honestly, the screen update from my iPhone 3GS to my 4S, while nice and certainly noticeable in a direct comparison, hadn't impressed me all that much. On the larger screen it's *much* more obvious.

  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Verunks ( 1000826 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:58AM (#40368611)
    I think that there is one crucial difference though, with zune they didn't bring anything new, it was just another mp3 player, the xbox was successful because they added something that other console didn't have at the time(xbox live), surface seems more like the latter, it's not just another tablet that tries to compete against the ipad, it's a tablet laptop hybrid with an os that seems to be quite good for both
  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:59AM (#40368623) Journal
    Given that the two devices shown run OSes that MS licenses to 3rd parties, I'd say that this is halfway between "Playsforsure" and "Zune" in terms of strategy...

    Like 'Playsforsure", and unlike Zune or Xbox, these are Microsoft-based; but based on exactly the same Microsoft stuff that they have been actively pushing 3rd party companies to license(just as there were at least a dozen vaguely-known 'Playsforsure' supporting device makers, plus some unknowns, and several music stores based on the technology).

    However, the fact that MS has bothered to release this at all(in contrast to their history of generally keeping it hands-off when it comes to x86 PCs, aside from spec-nudging based on labelling/driver certification pressures), is much more zune-like. Zune, with its limited set of 'flagship' devices and One Service To Rule Them All replaced 'Playsforsure' after MS became tired of the third party licensees sucking(Some just sucked, period, some built players that nominally supported WMDRM; but were only purchased instead of iPods for various other features, recording, audiophile stuff, FLAC support, etc.).

    This is not a vote of confidence in the Wintel OEMs of the world. Whether MS actually hopes to sell a bunch of these, or just hopes that HP et al. will clone the fuck out of them and sell them themselves; Microsoft has basically stepped up and informed the beige-box pushers of the world that they think that they don't have what it takes to build an iPad killer, even if Windows8 is the best thing since sliced kittens(to be fair, MS is probably right).
  • by guidryp ( 702488 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:02AM (#40368647)

    Actually at first glance I thought it was kind of neat.

    Then I thought about actually using it and it strikes me as ergonomically FUBAR.

    It has a floppy "hinge", so it doesn't turn this into a laptop. You really can't use it in your lap, as you are reliant on having a table/desk and using the kickstand to support the screen, while the floppy cover just lies there. []

    Asus solves the keyboard much better with the Transformer Tablets that acutally make it into a mini-laptop: []

    The floppy keyboard cover is long on gimmick, short on substance.

  • by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:08AM (#40368731) Journal

    Is it a tablet with a bad keyboard attachment, a poor netbook with a big screen, a picture holder, what?
    It's like Microsoft tried to come up with every mobile idea in the last 3 years and just cram them together until the machine looked like a damn Slinky, but more stupid?
    I'm not hating on them, I just truly, honestly don't know what the fuck they're trying to do with this.

  • Re:Wait, Surface? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:16AM (#40368807)

    yes, it doesn't sound any different than what they've done in the past as far as marketing goes. As they've done before, they end up over priced, under powered and with short battery life. Since we are talking vapor ware again with only prototypes being shown with promises of something( likely different ) 4 months out we can only look at this as a PR stunt and it was probably hastily thrown in to curb the excitement away from what Google plans to announce and release in a week.

    If you don't think it was quickly thrown together, did you see the room? It looked like an airplane hanger with a stage setup. And of course there was the system crash which caused me to look at my calendar to see what year this was.

    It might be a "real product" but they are not even in production yet and posted disclaimers that the format and specs could change once production starts. ie, it's a prototype and only physically is it a "real product".

  • by Wovel ( 964431 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:24AM (#40368923) Homepage

    Prepare to be disappointed.

  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:38AM (#40369119) Homepage Journal

    An American console with few Japanese-style games does not sell as well as a Japanese console that has many Japanese-style titles and is part of a console franchise that has a large fan base in Japan? Somebody stop the presses!

    I think his point wasn't that it sells less, but how much less it sells.
    Compare the sales of XBox in Japan with the sales of Japanese consoles in USA -- while XBox might(?) sell more here in the US, the proportion of domestic to foreign differs. A lot.

  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:39AM (#40369133)

    They didn't so much give up on the Zune, they just gave up on it as a standalone product. It's now a component of the Windows 7 phones, and is actually in a lot of ways superior to the equivalent iPod software. That said, from all accounts when it got released it was just horrible, which was more of the problem. You don't get a lot of second chances in this market. The XBox actually did fairly well, and the 360 essentially wins because it was more powerful than a Wii and cheaper than a PS3(Sony made something that was immensely awesome and powerful but which was just too expensive).

    If the price point on these tablets is right, they might do quite well, whether Microsoft can find the sweet spot between the old gigantically expensive hovercraft they used to sell and the cheap(though still overpriced) crap that flooded the Android tablet market in recent years, is of course a question.

    Windows RT seems quite reasonable and the HTML5ish front end they have will have a lot lower barrier to entry for programmers than XAML does(XAML is incredibly powerful, but it's not exactly something you pick up in an hour or so) allowing some better app UIs to be built. Who knows though.

    That said I'm still yet to see any evidence that a market exists for these things when they're not made and marketed by Apple. Sure most of the Android ones were low priced crap and the few that weren't suffered from using Android when it still sucked, but they still didn't sell well whereas the iPad is a license to print money.

  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:00AM (#40369397) Journal

    This is not a vote of confidence in the Wintel OEMs of the world.

    This IS a vote of no confidence in the Wintel OEMs of the world.

    Not sure they'll be happy about it, either. Suppose no one makes a Win8 tablet, just ultra books. Roughly same price, better margins due to lower mfg costs.

  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpryGuy ( 206254 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:48AM (#40369985)

    I have to agree.

    I have a 2nd Gen Zune device (80Gig), and it's pretty much better than an equivalent iPod Classic in every measurable way... better hardware, better sound, better quality ear-buds, better device UI, better PC Software (not that besting iTunes on Windows takes much effort). It's a rock-solid device, high quality, and a great experience. The Zune "social" website was also fun (with achievements for listening habits, matching friends with similar tastes, etc).

    Of course, by the time it came out, the iPod Touch was right around the corner, and the entire category was in its last years before smart phones took over.

    As to what makes it better, I agree with the other reply: it's not so much about additional capabilitis (though Zunes did come with built in FM Tuner that iPods lacked, the "social", the sharing, and ZunePass ... all of which were very significant), it was just the experience of using it.

    The Zune gets a bad rap because of the clunky first generation design, the brown color, and the somewhat lame marketing campaign (some of the commercials were really good, but after they were over, you had no idea what they were for, so they weren't effective in the way they needed to be obviously). It gets a further bad rap for having failed in the marketpalce, even though it was a superior solution. It was of course, just too late.

  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:58AM (#40370153)
    The ipod wasn't anything new either

    I disagree. As others have mentioned, the scroll-wheel interface was extremely effective when compared to a lot of the others, it had an insane amount of space for such a tiny player at the time, and the eventual integration of iTunes with the Music Store was very new for the industry, all of which contributed to the iPod's success. At the time, it was simply a much better product, IMO.

    Most importantly, it wasn't shit brown. :-)
  • Re:Zune or Xbox? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:47PM (#40374775) Journal

    Insightful post, though did you watch the Surface video first? I'm no Microsoft fan-boy (I'm more of a Linux lover), but I think Microsoft just knocked one out of the park. I haven't seen innovation like this from Microsoft in over a decade.

    Finally, someone figured out that tablets should have a super thin keyboard built into the cover. I've been pestering my Dell brother-in-law marketing dude for something like this for four years, but Dell doesn't generally innovate, it just copies and lowers prices (with the exception of the amazing Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook).

    This device is why both Ubuntu's Unity and Gnome 3 look a lot like Windows 8. It was just a matter of time before tablets like the Surface came into being. Got a netbook? Who wouldn't trade one in for a Surface? Who needs Facetime when we've got Skype? Who needs Apple Works or whatever crap office suite they sell when you can get Office (or Libre Office, in my case)?

    I read a very insightful blog post on the surface. [] I agree with the blogger... the actual Surface may not sell in high volume. Instead, it just might succeed in creating a Windows 8 based tablet OEM ecosystem capable of trashing iPad volumes. I probably will get a Surface from Microsoft and run Ubuntu Unity on it (and live with the resulting pain). However, now that Dell can wait and see if there's a true market for Surface without anyone over there having to (God forbid!) take a risk, I predict I will have a sweet Dell branded Surface clone at a very reasonable price for my next tablet.

    Now, one more thing Microsoft has to fix. When well we get a Microsoft Software Store? Apple showed how to do it while being as evil as humanly possible, and "Don't Be Evil" Google had no second thoughts about duplicating that evil. I was really saddened when Google proved it has no interest in bringing authors and users closer together, and were simply in the race to become the new content gate keepers, just like Apple. Will Microsoft take this opportunity to be the good guys for a change?

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie