Microsoft Surface Tablet with Windows 8 Takes Aim at iPad

Jun 18, 2012 - 52 Comments

Microsoft Surface tablet

Microsoft released Surface today, their direct competitor to the iPad and Android tablets. As you’d expect, the device is a touchscreen tablet but differs from the iPad in that it comes in two distinct versions; a traditional tablet model based on ARM architecture and runs only Windows RT – that’s Metro for those who don’t follow MS closely – and the other is a pro model based on Intel Ivy Bridge chips that runs full-fledged Windows 8 desktop.

Other than providing a look at Apple’s competition, perhaps most interesting to iPad users is the cover that ships with the tablet. Upon first appearance it looks like a Smart Cover knock-off, but it actually one-ups Apple’s offering by including a completely functional multitouch keyboard built directly into the cover itself. It certainly looks fascinating, and assuming it works well you can bet third party cover manufactures will be cranking out similar cases for the iPad soon.

Microsoft Surface with Multitouch keyboard cover

Onto the Surface specs:

Surface – Standard model

  • Windows RT (Metro-only interface)
  • 32GB and 64GB available
  • 1.5lbs
  • 9.3mm thick enclosure made out of magnesium, with built-in stand
  • 10.6″ ClearType HD Display (retina-ish?), 16×9 aspect ratio
  • MicroSD card slot, USB 2.0, MicroHD video, 2×2 MIMO antennae (?)
  • Bundled with Office Home & Student 2013 RT
  • Multitouch cover with built-in keyboard

Surface – Pro model

  • Windows 8 Pro (standard Windows desktop & Metro)
  • Intel Ivy Bridge CPU
  • 64GB and 128GB storage
  • 2lbs
  • 13.5mm
  • 10.6″ ClearType Full HD Display (not sure how this differs from other model)
  • MicroSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 2×2 MIMO
  • Bundled with Touch Cover, Type Cover, and magnet stylus pen

Noticeably missing from either spec sheet provided by Microsoft is any word on battery life, device pricing, or availability of the Surface.

Here is Microsofts …unusual… promo video for Surface, it is more similar to the Motorola DROID commercials than any Apple advertisement:

What do you think, does the Surface look interesting to you? If you’ve played around with Windows 8 on your Mac, does it seem like the type of OS you’d want to run full time on a tablet? Anyone going to jump from the iPad to the Surface? I’m fascinated by the announcement and I think it looks like an interesting product, I look forward to trying one out.


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Posted by: Matt Chan in News


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  1. Me says:

    Send me one, and I will review it.

  2. ZhapurLite says:

    ^Agreed. I think your real suggestion is that something that looks more like full OSX should be available as an option on the tablet devices too, sort of like MSFT is doing by offering two versions of tablet, with Metro and the full shebang that’s W8. Maybe some iPads will eventually pop up with Intel inside instead of ARM, running a full version of Mountain Lion or some other future beast?? I don’t see the point of full OSX on an iPhone or iPodTouch, but I can see it happening on Pad devices. Never say never, although I’d rather go with the 11 inch Air since I’m not much of a Pad guy.

  3. Chuck says:

    I have been using a Mac for a few years, just got an iPhone and iPad in the last year. I have to say windows 8 looks solid for a tough screen experience. It has expandable storage, USB ports for devices and most of all a user accessible file system….I love apple products and iOS, but the lack of finder on ios has driven me crazy. Apple could learn a thing or two from the last 40 years of computing to fix the storage issues iOS currently has. I’m not even looking for access to app folders but it would be greatly appreciated if I could store my documents and media files in one place for all apps to have access to read and write. The file management on ios now is a convoluted solution to a problem that should never have existed in the first place

  4. ZhapurLite says:

    Form-wise, the Surface Tablet looks like a decent imitation of the iPad, and it may work well for those who don’t use the Apple ecosystem and want to sync Windows tablets with Windows PCs, or are too cheap to buy iPads. How well it will compete with Android and/or iOS remains to be seen. I’m a Mac guy so this doesn’t interest me, but if I owned only Windows computers – I’d definitely pick this up instead of a Linux (whoops, Android) or iOS tablet.

  5. Will says:

    I am a MacOS user, and have been since I could hold a mouse.

    I see these Apple verses Microsoft arguments, and they make me smile. You know, MacOS gets it’s fair share of viruses, and if you are a developer for MacOS you have to reboot your machine several times an hour sometimes just to stop it going mental.

    Not only can I believe a Windows machine can be left running for years even under Vista (though I’m sure it will have needed nursing once or twice) but I also believe this tablet has potential.

    Okay, so the kickstand is at an awful angle, and the rubber keyboard is… iffy (though I do like it, just not the material) but look, now we know exactly why Microsoft MADE Windows 8 in the first place. Ever used the previews on a desktop with a traditional mouse? It’s a nightmare. Use it on a machine with a multi-touch trackpad (say, my lovely MacBook Pro) and it begins to make sense. Use it on a device where the primary input is a touch-screen monitor and bingo, it works.

    The best thing is, Microsoft have actually realised that touch-screen PCs suck. And they really, really do. I used to use one when I worked in a supermarket where the screen was set 20º off vertical and after serving the third customer of the day I wanted to chop my hands off rather than suffer the RSI torment. Using a tablet computer makes sense, and you can see that Microsoft have actually put some thought into it.

    The keyboard/case idea… eh, I kinda like it. However, if you’re going to be using it out and about and you don’t have a table handy, I can see it getting frustrating and having to resort to using the onscreen keyboard instead – after all, that kickstand as shown in the video locks in only two positions – closed and open to nº (where n looks to be roughly 30º) – and we have no idea whether the machine supports being upside down, as it were, so that you can use it raised slightly up from horizontal, rather than slightly back from vertical – certainly the keyboard won’t attach at that angle.

    Overall, I think this looks like a shiny product.

    And we all know what happens to shiny products. Most of them get adopted instantly, used, then forgotten about.

    Hopefully Microsoft will shrug this off, and I wish them the best of luck with their product.

    Oh, and finally, “Surface”? Man, pick a better name. A surface is something I chop vegetables on, or rest my coffee mug on while I relax on the sofa.

  6. Mack says:

    @ Bill. You say “MS basic policy, make a product so F***up so that people depend on you for support.” Hmmmmm, kinda interesting that without fail every time I step into the Apple store there are droves of people standing around waiting to get help because their Apple product isn’t working properly.

    @ Andrew. Yes…really. Read my post. Before switching to my Macbook Pro, for 3 years I used my Dell XPS M1530 running Vista and it never once crashed, got a virus or needed to be reformatted. I’m not sure what strange websites you go to which were getting you all those viruses but I must have gotten lucky and somehow missed them.

    I love my Mac and I really enjoy OSX, but people…please be realistic. MS makes good products too and the Surface tablet looks COOL. Admit it.

  7. Stewart says:

    It is cool that Microsoft is coming out with a Windows 8 Pro version of it – because the Windows RT version is a dud at least for me.

    I used both Apple and Microsoft, but I think Apple could learn something here. How about OS X tablet with Ivy Bridge CPU – possibly next evolution of the AIR.

    I would love for Apple to get away from ARM cpus.

  8. Andrew says:

    I can’t wait to use one, but I would agree there is no information about it really. The video is concentrating on the looks / the stand / cover, and not how it actually works (see apple ads).

    I have always hated windows for viruses & constant hanging /crashes, that is all.

  9. Art says:

    I did liked the ad. 5+ to the ad designer. Getting the tablet…. Probably no. Windows is not for me. Sorry

  10. adam says:

    Nice Spot :)

  11. John Dsonice says:


  12. James Ludtke says:

    The keyboard is a nice idea, but I think most iPad users work primarily in screen-touch mode. I do. If I needed to work primarily in keyboard-mode, I would get a Mac Book Air. If I worked in both modes frequently away from my desktop Mac, I would use an iPad and a Mac Book Air.

    As I see it, the Surface is no match for the Mac Book Air, and may or may not be a match for the iPad, except for people are so firmly established in Windows OS that they do not want to learn a new platform all over again.

  13. Rohan says:

    If MS made hardware and sold windows that work only on their hardware products just like apple does i bet windows would have never crashed.

    • n0mad says:

      /agree – it’s hardware and driver inconsistency in the Windows world. Easy proof of concept – create a VM Fusion VM and install Windows … you can leave it running for days (in and out of OSX sleep). I never had a problem with a high end wintel machine. Always had problems with budget machines and crappy hw/drivers.

  14. Artyom Brazelman says:

    It looks promising, but I’m sure as hell not going to switch over. By “it,” I mean the hardware, because I’m doubting that Microsoft is going to be able to catch as much attention from mobile developers as Apple already has.
    If this device was destined for success, Microsoft would’ve and should’ve started a line of their own tablet a long time ago. Apple already has the market, and while it’s designed to directly compete with the iPad, frankly, I doubt it’s going to go very far. The problem with Microsoft is they leave out key details that ultimately lead to confused consumers. Questions like “who is this tablet/OS targeted twords?” are important and have been left out. It really seems Microsoft is too eager at the idea of releasing this; as in, they are making too many promises without proof.
    TL;DR: Microsoft is too late. This seems like a last-ditch effort to redeem themselves.

  15. JAlder says:

    I don’t know about the tablet, but the ad is great, very Chris Cunningham-y. I guess I’m one of those who says “if only it ran iOS or Android…”.

  16. Alberto I says:

    This keyboard is genial!

  17. B30 says:

    Waaaay to late!!! The iPad-Train has left the station long time ago!

  18. Mack says:

    jerseyguy, do you REALLY have to reboot your windows computer every day? Give me a break. I used a Dell XPS Laptop for 3 years running on……gasp….Vista. And guess what, it never crashed once. It never got a virus. It never needed to be rebooted on a daily basis. You are a liar just like so many of the Apple cool aid drinkers out there.

    Am I a Windows fanboy? Not at all. I love my Apple products. I use a 17 inch MacBook Pro running Lion and I also use an iPhone 4. I recently bought my wife an iPad and she and I both enjoy using it.


    This Windows tablet looks cool! If some of you REALLy can’t admit that, you need to get a life.

    • Bill says:

      He is not a liar & I can confirm as I worked at MS Premier Support.
      MS basic policy, make a product so F***up so that people depend on you for support.

      It’s a one way traffic MS>Apple, have you seen anyone promoting, Migration from Apple to MS? NO, but Apple stores proudly say MS>Apple, we do it for you.

    • Andrew says:

      Really Mack? I have never used a windows computer that didn’t get a virus at least twice a year and need to be completely reformatted (normally just before course work was due in).

      I also had to reboot a few times a day, and they never failed to crash, or randomly go on a complete go slow.

      Virus wise, I can imagine getting one on a tablet would be a right pain in the a**e to fix.

  19. jerseyguy says:

    What a joke… Apple has already updated their iPad a couple of times before Microsoft decided to come out with a tablet. Looks clunky and cheap to me. I would never trade my apple products for a single windows based anything. I can’t remember ever having to re-boot my apple computers or ipad/iphone. I couldn’t tell you the last time my iphone was even turned off. However, I use a newer model windows based computer at work and I have to re-boot it every day practically. If I want a headache I will buy this tablet. If I want to enjoy reading/surfing the web/sending an email or looking at my photos… I will grab my iPad. I love all of my friends from elementary school that made fun of me for having my Blueberry Apple iBook when they first came out and now those same friends have iPads/iPhones/ and MacBook Pros. Enough said!

  20. icebreaker says:

    The type cover is a good idea :) Especially with a build in stand.

  21. Stephen says:

    “Microsoft released Surface today”

    No. They announced it today. Not the same thing at all.

  22. Kr00 says:

    So many unasked and unanswered questions about this. Battery life, PRICE, camera, WiFi, 3G, 4G, Apps??????? If Apple tried this, they’d get hounded down by the press. The keyboard is a nice touch, will come in handy whilst typing CTRL-ALT-Delete. Will it have a blues screen of death or the red ring of death? They missed a great opportunity to call it “The Next Of Kin”. Isn’t that who you call when something dies?

    • Derek says:

      the OS running this hardware is the new OS windows8,
      if you question about the spec of a hardware then yes that is reasonable;
      but if you criticize about the software as the operative system,
      I suggest you do some searching about windows8, highly likely you would be amazed.
      The hardware isn’t the core of windows8, windows8 itself is the core, the hardware is just doing the things that new OS windows8 are capable of. windows8 itself shines.

  23. Stan says:

    The device looks nice and I also like the idea of full fledged OS. Similar to iPad 2 the “cover” might end up the best thing about the device.
    It’s worth attention, but once you get int OSX/iOS and Apple ecosystem I believe there is no turning back ;)

  24. Andy says:

    I’d give it a shot in addition to what I already have if it was priced right, but I’m not about to give up my iPad, Mac, iPhone, and everything else. Now, if it ran Xbox games and could hook up to a TV… I’d be sold in a heartbeat. Well, at least in addition to my Macs :)

    • malih says:

      well I don’t know about Xbox games, but Windows already has lots of games, just go to Steam, provided you pick the i5 version, plug in to hdmi (in the keynote demo they used hdmi) – and there’s usb, so you can plug any Windows compatible controller.
      I’m thinking of buying this one in place of my new iPad… because of the touch cover and the usb port, of course depends on whether it works well, new products usually are buggy.

  25. 911 says:

    Much more interested in this than any of the Android Tablets. I think however, iPad really has a massive lead in terms of Apps – and Apps are what makes and breaks these mobile devices now. Blackberry & Nokia make solid phones, but they just didn’t have a marketplace so they died.

    This is interesting because a ‘keyboard’ makes the ‘desktop’ side much more functional than previously assumed Win8 would be on a tablet – but the question is – will the tablet side have anything going for it? Will Win8 have a cheap and massive collection of apps?

    There are a few other considerations, screen resolution, the big one – battery life. But I could see these doing well for 500 dollars and doing a better job replacing laptops as productivity devices than the iPad does as being almost exclusively focused on entertainment. If Win8 can pick it up with a solid marketplace, it could very well take Android’s spot in the tablet race.

    • rick says:

      umm.. I believe windows has plenty of apps…

      This could be really big for enterprises which the ipad still doesn’t meet their needs.

  26. George says:

    Innovative design – if it works. Great software potential if it can run Win 7 legacy software. Wonder about battery life with an i5 processor. Have no idea how Win 8 will play.

  27. Larry says:

    Congratulations Microsoft on making your first prototype. Maybe they can answer the same questions shot at apple like: how hot does it get; can you use it under direct sunlight; is the screen less reflective; is it 4g compatible; what about the camera specs; can I load android software and windows software; whats the resolution; does it dictate; is the keyboard lit for low light; is it serviceable; is it a better green product; does your factory have good working conditions; whats the price; who gets to sell it; does it come with a chinese compatible browser; Will it come with a new Internet Explorer; what companies are going to make games for it; will it come in a bigger size; how long of a battery life does it have; does it have tracking software; can I mirror the screen onto my TV; how do I transfer files to it or from it; will the signal reception drop if I hold it a certain way; can you engrave it; what kind of discount do you give to students; Can I use it without the keyboard; is the screen scratch proof; can I use a stylus; how do I load movies on it; is it airprint compatible; can I transfer my apps to it; can I skype; can I watch tv; can I upload pictures from my DSLR; Can I use itunes to sync all my music onto it; how do I hook it to the video input of the class overhead screen; whats the warrantee; do I need a 2 year contract; does it have GPS; Can I make calls; How do you configure mail; does it have bluetooth; what does it cost to replace the battery; can I go to sites with flash; can I use a mouse with it; do I need a converter when I travel outside of united states; will it set itself on fire on the plane; does it take a normal size sim card; does it come in white; when will the next version come out; is it faster than an ipad and nook; can I use kindle on it; how do I transfer my contacts; have you done a drop test; is it weather proofed; what accessories are available; whats your return policy if I don’t like it; Can I tether my phone or camera; what languages does it come with; Can I run more than one app at a time; what are the limitations of your tablet; whats the software situation; what would Steve Job think of it; would you say it is a substitute to the PC; what protection do I have against viruses; How do I make it read stories to my kid; what kind of photography software can I use to edit my photos; do you have any art programs; will Word and Excel be standard; Where can I demo it; Do you sell demos; whats the difference between and Ivy and a Arm; If I accidentally placed a hot pan on the screen will it melt; will your AC adapter plug into other appliances; How do I clean the screen and keyboard; can I connect my thunderbolt drive; how many USB 3.0 does it have; Does it have a lockable screen; Does it have parental control over purchases; Can I use it as a second monitor; will it update my mail automatically while in sleep mode; can I switch between google maps and apple maps; does it have something similar to Siri; Which car manufacturers are interested implementing your tablets; Do you have benchmark we can look and compare with; what is it worth used; what is the actual cost of making your tablet; Do you have suicides at your plant and how are you compensating the families; If presented your wife her choice of your tablet or a ipad, which would she choose.

    • Tim says:

      Kudos on revealing the areas that Microsoft must be nervous enough over not to mention.
      Wow these words look so amazing on my new iPad.
      I will say the keyboard is intriguing however it does seem you can only hold the tablet one way as I haven’t seen a shot of the surface in portrait. Could also be interesting when youre using the tablet in more personal settings like viwing in bed. Will you always be taking the cover on and off. The materials also seem interesting. At this point it seems they decided to choose tantalizing materials and a different but similar cover as apple, then promptly “phoned” the rest in…probably on a dying platform at that. If they’re just taking on the android tablets…game on. If they’re trying to take on the iPad they haven’t.

      • PlayfullyEvil says:

        I’m intrigued about the keyboard/cover as well.

        Maybe it’s reversible in the you can place the cover on the back? Have the keys facing the back of the tablet and deactivate the keyboard functions when placed there?

    • Hans says:

      Awesome post!

    • Gregg says:

      Couldn’t have said (asked?) it better! Also: what is the advantage of magnesium over aluminum or plastic? Do you have a magsafe-like power connector when I trip over the cables?

      I’m sure we could think of a few more… ;-)

    • Service pack says:

      please give some details about service pack for this tablet
      service pack for software and hardware?
      when ? how ? and what version sp ?

  28. Dah•veed says:

    We are going to have this fantastic product someday, we don’t know when, in the future, but we don’t know how much it will cost nor much else about it.

    Sounds like vaporware still.

  29. John says:

    Looks interesting but if the preview of Windows 8 was any indication it won’t be a pleasant experience. I’ll reserve judgement until I try one though.

  30. Nick says:

    Meh. Not trading my gorgeous iPad hardware for that. Plus, I’m into Apple’s ecosystem.

  31. DD says:

    Great commercial. Looks interesting, keyboard is a nice touch BUT I’d rather use iOS, so won’t be switching. BTW I love the retina display on iPad 3

  32. Ramon Leigh says:

    iPads are passe – only Jobs’ worshippers think it
    has anything to offer these days. Jobs is gone and Apple will be shortly as well. Pity. He conned an entire generation of novices.

  33. Steve Man says:

    I can feel a Nokia moment coming on, where folks say: the hardware’s great, if only it ran iOS or Android

  34. Duchasis Bronchis says:

    reading this on my iPad, that comes up my opinion!

  35. David says:

    Meh, looks OK but the iPad has the market. I won’t be switching over and I’m sure nobody else will either. Maybe it will attract some newcomers to tablets in general though?

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