Microsoft has at long last announced a new tablet device. It’s been close to 10 years since it created an operating system for early tablet devices, namely XP tablet edition, which was a chunky port of their desktop OS. Whilst it garnered some interest in areas such as healthcare, it never really captured the public imagination in the way the iPad has revolutionised couch and boardroom browsing.
Microsoft has now moved into tablet manufacturing with the newly announced ‘Surface’ family of tablets running their new OS Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro options. The Pro offers a more complete Windows experience.
Specifications for ‘Surface’ are of course excellent for the most part – 9.3mm thick, 10.6 inch screen, full HD display, USB and HDMI ports and Gorilla Glass 2.0 display – available in a choice of ARM or Intel based processors. I find this choice a little confusing. Are the different chipset targeting different users or applications? If a user chooses incorrectly will they get less than optimal performance? Why make the choice a difficult one?
Premium build, common looks
Featuring a built-in kickstand and a Magnesium case there’s no denying the build-quality of this tablet – but compared to the other tablets on the market its looks are not going to be a prime selling point. The device announced lacks a rear-facing camera and there are no details of whether it will feature 3G/4G at all.
Microsoft will be re-introducing a stylus in the form of an active pen dubbed ‘Digital Ink’ which will switch to writing mode (ignoring other touches) as it nears the screen. Keyboard covers are also part of the solution and are thin, connected via magnets and include trackpads. Again an odd addition – will this mean having to navigate a small cursor around the screen? Not the tablet experience we’ve gotten used to at all.
A major feature of the Microsoft 8 operating system will be the tablets ability to run full versions of desktop applications. For some users this alone may be justification enough to replace a desktop and certainly a laptop/netbook. With the dominance of the Apple iPad and Samsung making in-roads into the market with their top of the range Android devices, users seem proficient in the use of mobile apps as opposed to wanting a more desktop experience. It remains to be seen if this is actually what user’s need.
Microsoft hasn’t announced pricing or availability and you might want to note that the specs on their website don’t include battery life.