Microsoft unveiled its first-ever tablet-PC hybrid in June, but at the company's Windows 8 event in New York on Thursday, just one day prior to the tablet's release date, Microsoft executives took the opportunity to reintroduce the Surface tablet to the public, filling them in on all of the great features and specs in its inaugural tablet.
At the first Windows 8 event of the day, after demoing several applications running on Windows RT devices, Microsoft executives Mike Anguilo and Julie Larson-Green brought the Surface RT tablet onstage to demo the tablet-PC hybrid running the ARM-based Windows RT to the crowd.
“I think it makes a great addition to what our partners have built,” Anguilo said.
Even though the Surface only made a brief appearance at the Windows 8 press conference, Microsoft live streamed a Microsoft Surface Webcast later that afternoon to reintroduce the world to the Surface tablet and show off its various features once more before the tablet’s official release date Friday.
The Surface tablet, which is directly aimed to compete with Apple’s popular iPad, is bigger than Apple’s tablet and a bit heavier at 1.5 pounds. The Surface boasts a 10.6-inch screen with ClearType 1080p Full HD display, which features a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution built around a 16:9 aspect ratio for widescreen video. It's powered by a quad-core Tegra 3 chip from NVIDIA, includes ports for video out, microSDXC cards and USB 2.0 and comes with two 720p HD LifeCams on the front and rear of the tablet.
Thanks to the Surface's multitasking software, users can shoot photos and video with the cameras while using separate applications on the same screen at the same time. For instance, students can sit in class and type notes while filming the entire lecture with a simple tap of the screen and be able to see both images in the same picture. And since the rear camera is located directly on the top back of the Surface, when it sits in laptop mode, the rear camera is angled slightly upward to film everything you, the user, can see.
At the first Windows 8 event of the day, Anguilo briefly showed off the Surface’s click, Touch Cover and integrated kickstand, which helps the device transform from a tablet to a PC with a few swift adjustments. Back when Microsoft unveiled the tablet in June, Windows president Steven Sinofsky showcased why the Surface was the best tablet for doing PC work, describing how the kickstand disappeared into the device when you don’t need it and how the full keyboard and trackpad built directly into the cover kills multiple birds with one stone. Furthermore, Sinofsky showed how the viewing and typing angles are simply superior to that of the iPad, even with its Smart Cover attached.
“Within the Surface team, we talk about seamless transitions,” said Panos Panay, general manager of the Microsoft Surface. “This is really important. When you purchase Surface, you can see, you can consume, you can even play, and then it starts to transform itself. But if it transforms itself, it needs to transform seamlessly.”
Of course, since this is a hybrid device, the Surface is sold with a 3mm Touch Cover keyboard or a 5mm Type Cover keyboard, both of which attach to the Surface via magnets to keep it protected when not in use and give the tablet enhanced functionality when in use. The Touch Cover is easy to detach from the Surface to use it as a tablet, but when attached, the magnets are extremely strong; If you lift the Surface by its keyboard, the pressure-sensing keyboard can still easily hold the 1.5-pound tablet all by itself.
Speaking of durability, while this tablet packs a punch, the Surface can certainly take one, too. At Thursday's event, Panay dropped the surface on stage to demonstrate its toughness, but if that wasn't crazy enough, Panay and Sinofsky pasted trucks and wheels onto the bottom of the tablet, effectively converting the magnesium-encased tablet into a skateboard. They didn't ollie around on stage, but they did show a few pictures of Sinofsky wearing a massive helmet while standing atop of his own tablet creation.
Unfortunately, the Surface isn't sold as a skateboard, but it does have plenty of great software applications. While Surface with Windows 8 Pro is still coming soon, Surface with Windows RT, which is built for ARM-powered devices, comes equipped with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Microsoft’s other proprietary apps have also been baked right into the surface, including Windows Mail and Messaging, its SkyDrive cloud service, the Bing search engine, Xbox Music, Internet Explorer 10, Video and Games.
Microsoft has set the release date for Surface for Friday. Customers can still preorder online via the company’s website, but the company will start selling it at Microsoft retail stores and other retail outlets starting tomorrow. For any New Yorkers, Microsoft will start selling the Surface tablet at 10 p.m. Thursday night.
The Surface costs $499 for 32GB of storage, $599 for 32GB and a Black Touch Cover and $699 for a 64GB tablet with a Black Touch Cover. For online orders, Microsoft expects deliveries to ship in one to two weeks.