Microsoft is entering the tablet space with its own line of hardware. Microsoft Surface tablets will come in two versions. There will be Windows RT model with an ARM-based processor for light weight and long battery life, and an Intel powered model with which can run all Windows 8 apps, as well as software designed for earlier version of Windows.
Both tablets will feature 10.6 inch HD displays with Gorilla Glass. They’ll each feature a built-in kickstand, a magnesium case, a strong wireless antenna, front and rear cameras, and magnets which let you snap on a cover — which can also function as a keyboard thanks to built-in multitouch keyboard support in the 3mm (0.12 inch) thick cover.
If you prefer physical keys with tactile feedback, Microsoft will also offer a product called the Type Cover which looks like a slightly thicker cover with a built-in keyboard and touchpad.
The Microsoft Surface Windows RT tablet will be thinner and lighter, at 0.37 inches thick and 1.5 pounds. It has a 31.5 Whr battery, a microSD card slot, USB 2.0 port, micro HDMI video port, and can run Microsoft’s new Office 15 apps.
Microsoft’s Windows RT tablet will be available with 32GB or 64GB of storage.
The Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet measures 0.53 inches thick and weighs just under two pounds. This model has the same size display and basic case design as the Windows RT model. But it will have a full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel screen (the ARM version has a lower resolution display) a 42 Whr battery, microSDXC port, USB 3.0 port, and Mini DisplayPort.
The Windows 8 tablet will be available with 64GB or 128GB of storage. Microsoft will also include a digital pen with this model, making it easier to interact with traditional Windows apps designed for keyboard and mouse input.
Microsoft hasn’t revealed the pricing for either version of the tablet yet — but says Surface for Windows RT will be priced “competitively” with other tablets with ARM-based processors. That could mean anything, since that description covers the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire and a 32GB iPad which sells for $599 and up.
We should have a better idea of how much the Microsoft Surface tablets will cost closer to the time they launch — which will probably be this fall when Windows 8 hits the streets. The Windows 8 Pro model is expected to launch three months after the Surface Windows RT tablet.
As for how much Microsoft’s entry into the tablet hardware space will cost in terms of driving a spike between Microsoft and its hardware partners such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba… we’ll probably get a better sense of that later this year too.
Most of those companies are also expected to produce their own Windows 8 and/or RT tablets — and today’s announcement means they’ll be competing directly with Microsoft.
It could be enough to drive some companies to invest more heavily in Android, Tizen, webOS, or other tablet operating systems.