We check out Microsoft's flashy debut into the tablet market and why you should care about it.
Since the debut of Apple’s mega-seller iPad, now in its third generation, technology manufacturers have tried again and again to win some of the spotlight from their beautifully designed aluminum and glass competitor. Despite software backing with Google’s Android platform to rival Apple’s iOS, we’ve seen a string of mediocre launches that can fundamentally do the job but can’t capture that “cool and hip” element that Apple has pioneered with its products.
While many thought former smartphone giant RIM, creator of the Blackberry, could make a dent in the market, consumers were utterly disappointed by a similarly priced unit that lacked 3G functionality at launch; despite promises one would follow, a revised version hasn’t been seen on the horizon. In fact, RIM had to resort to slashing prices to well below market value last fall in order to clear stock from its warehouses, where it sat collecting dust.
While recent entrants to the market, the so-called e-reader/tablet hybrids such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Kobo’s VOX, planned to make the leap in order to capture the low-cost market, not one company has been able to challenge Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. But that, quite possibly, is about to change.
Arch-rival and software giant Microsoft took an unprecedented step yesterday and pulled a move right out of Apple’s marketing book to introduce their first tablet, known as the Surface.
The tactics included top-secret media invitations, an undisclosed location and virtually no information about what journalists were to be shown, just a casual, “This will be a major Microsoft announcement — you will not want to miss it.” Did it work? We would definitely reckon so, but it presents a number of pertinent questions and situations.
The most important fact that needs to be understood is that this really is an unusual path for the company to take. While most consumers remember the “I’m a Mac and you’re a PC” ads, many have assumed that anytime “PC” is mentioned, it is synonymous with Microsoft. While the Windows software maker has been an industry leader, it makes a point of not releasing its own branded hardware (XBOX 360 excepted), which keeps its third-party manufacturer partners happy and its bank account brimming.
While the Surface is to run off Microsoft’s highly anticipated Windows 8 platform, being released this fall, a number of its third-party partners will also be releasing tablets using the software. Cue the awkwardness in that boardroom.
By entering the hardware game, Microsoft not only risks its own business relationships but is putting its reputation on the line as well (well, since Vista, that is). It will be interesting to see how it pans out on that front.
The slickly designed Surface measures 10.6” across its HD screen, weighs in at an easy 903 grams and is configurable with either 64 or 128 GB of presumably flash memory. Input-wise, the device has a microSDXC slot, USB 3.0 and a Mini DisplayPort for video.
The most innovative aspect of the Surface, however, lies in the cover, which doubles as a keyboard. Combined with the built-in vertical stand, you’ve got yourself a decent-sized laptop. This functionality, along with the Microsoft Office Suite onboard, makes the Surface a prime candidate for the business crowd as opposed to the iPad-skewed entertainment crowd. However, we think this device has the potential to lure that audience away.
The biggest questions still remaining are whether the Surface will contain 3G/4G/LTE capabilities, what the crucial battery life will be like, and the obvious details of price and availability. Seeing the cautious positive reaction to this tablet so far, we can imagine the bigwigs at Microsoft will capitalize on this in time for a fall/holiday release.
In the meantime, watch the official site for details and check out the absolutely stunning launch video below: