What Is the Microsoft Surface?

By Sam Biddle on at

Microsoft doesn't want to take any chances with Windows 8—if it's going to be the best tablet OS ever, it's going to need some serious hardware. So Microsoft is getting serious and building its own tablet. Meet Surface.

 

The Microsoft Surface is a tablet...

Microsoft's home cooked tablet is a very thin cookie: the non-Pro version is only 9.3mm thick (a little less than the iPad), 680 grams (a little more than iPad), and packs a 10.6-inch, 16:9 "ClearType" (think Retina) display, available with either 32 or 64 GB of storage. It's got tablet standards like front and rear-facing cameras and a full-sized USB port, along with some neat tricks: magnesium casing, HDMI out, Gorilla Glass, a kickstand (hmm) and a subtle groove around the entirety of the device to help keep the Pro version cool.

 

...that comes in two versions...

This is an Ugh!/Yeah! depending on who you are, but Surface, like everything Windows, will come in two flavours. The aforementioned super-skinny variant runs Windows RT on an ARM processor (like the one in your phone, or most other tablets), while the Pro copy runs an Ivy Bridge Core i5 x86 processor and "ultrabook specs," whatever that might mean! It'll be a little thicker and heavier, though not by much. The Pro Surface will be available with either 64 or 128 GB of storage.

 

...and runs Windows 8...

Surface is designed specifically for Windows 8's best tricks: it'll support semantic zoom (awesome!), a stylus (not awesome!), while providing a perfectly superflat frame for the perfectly superflat Metro UI. It'll also run the standard Windows desktop, meaning requisite software like Office and Photoshop are on the go with you, plus tablet standards like Netflix. The best of both worlds, we'd hope.

 

...and uses one of the coolest accessories we've ever seen.

The Surface can be paired with a magnetic cover, just like the iPad's. But the Surface's cover also doubles as a full, extremely thin keyboard and multitouch trackpad, whereas the iPad's is just... a cover. This is a brilliant move on Microsoft's part—one of the most clever things it's ever squeezed out, and something that instantly makes Surface one of the most exciting devices we've eyed in some time.

Unfortunately, no word on pricing (beyond a meaningless claim of "competitive") or availability.