(Source: Microsoft)
Company dives directly into tablet market at last, as first party iPad competitor

After a late start Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) mysterious 3:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) event kicked off late Monday.  The event had all the feel of an Apple press event -- well except a little less polish in sticking to the schedule.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer remarked, "At our foundation, Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a bet on software.  [But] it was always clear that what our software could do would require us to push hardware, sometimes where our partners hadn't envisioned.  Our number 1 revenue product when I joined Microsoft was a hardware product."

He continues, "What is it? It's something new. Something different. A whole new family of computing devices from Microsoft.  This is the new Microsoft Surface."

With that Mr. Ballmer held up a flat, relatively unassuming Windows 8 tablet.

The new tablet is 9.3 mm thin and weighs 1.5 lb.  The case is built out of magnesium.  Windows chief Steven Sinofsky describes the process, stating, "liquid metal is formed into an ultra rigid and light frame."

The tablet packs a 10.6-inch screen, putting it in roughly the same ballpark as the Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iPad -- the current king of the tablet market. (The iPad has a 9.7-inch screen.)  The tablet also features a built-in kickstand and Wi-Fi that Microsoft brags is the "best of any tablet today."

The tablet also has a 3 mm fold out keyboard that doubles as a case, complete with trackpad.  But this is no ordinary keyboard.  The entire surface is multi-touch enabled.  For those with multi-touch misgivings Microsoft came prepared, with a second fully tactile clickable keyboard, which is ever-so-slightly thicker.  The tablet also features "digital ink" a pen-input technology that samples at 600 dpi.
There's two versions of the new tablet.  The first is built on Intel Corp. (INTC) Core i5 Ivy Bridge processors.  Cooling is accomplished through some slick perimeter venting. A second Surface is based on forthcoming ARM chips.

Mr. Ballmer comments, "I was asked, 'why now?'  We took the time to get Surface and Windows 8 right. To do something that was really different and really special. We're proud of the Surface like we're proud of Windows 8. Because of Windows 8, the Surface is a PC, it is a tablet... it's something new."

III. Specs Recap

Windows RT model
WEIGHT:        676 g
THICKNESS:   9.3 mm
DISPLAY:       10.6” ClearType HD Display, 1366x768 pixels
BATTERY:       31.5 W-h
I/O:               microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
SOFTWARE:   Office Home & Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type Cover
EXTRAS:        VaporMg Case & Stand
SSD:              32 GB, 64 GB

Windows 8 Pro model
WEIGHT:      903 g
THICKNESS: 13.5 mm
PROCESSOR: Core i5 (Ivy Bridge)
DISPLAY:      10.6” ClearType Full HD Display, 1920x1080 pixels
BATTERY:      42 W-h
I/O:              microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
EXTRAS:       VaporMg Case & Stand, Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
SSD:            64 GB, 128 GB

IV. Conclusions

Well, it's hard to argue that the Surface is anything but very slick.  

Ultimately the device's greatest strength (and weakness) is perhaps Windows 8 -- a GUI that is much more rich than Apple's iOS, which has seen few true advances in terms of GUI design since 2010.  Some people may prefer simplistic (iOS) others may prefer rich and colorful (Windows 8).  It's ultimately a style and comfort choice.

No one knows exactly how well or poorly Microsoft's first foray into the first-party tablet market will fare.  But one thing's for sure -- there's likely some unhappy campers in the OEM community after Microsoft just blew away their Computex presentations with a far slicker Windows 8 tablet design.

Sources: The Verge, Engadget

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