Saying just as it needed to build its own mice at first, Microsoft announced today that it was releasing its own branded tablet called the Microsoft Surface with integrated keyboard.
“Because of Windows 8, the Surface is a PC, the Surface is a tablet, and the Surface is something new that we think people will absolutely love,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, speaking at the event.
Below is my live blogging from Microsoft’s event in Hollywood is below. More info from Microsoft is at the end.
Steve Ballmer has come out:
He’s talking about Microsoft transforming so many things. “In all that we’ve done, Windows is the heart and soul of Microsoft … most flexible general purpose software ever.”
Windows 8 has been a reengineering. “We designed Windows 8 for the world we know, where most PCs are mobile and people want access to information and to create content … people want to do all of that with compromising.” An iPad slam here, lead up to tablet?
“Today, we want to add another piece to that Windows 8 story.” Now we’re getting a video of Windows and Microsoft products in review.
Ballmer’s back, talking about using a mouse at the beginning, people not getting it at first, Canadian customs even holding them at the border as if alive. Xbox is most successful lately, shout out to Kinect and developers.
Talk now about partnerships with OEM. “They will deliver more PCs to market in the year 2013 than in any previous year.”
“However with Windows 8, we didn’t want to leave ?anything? uncovered.” Like with mouse, wanted to give Windows its own innovation. “It’s a whole new family of computing devices from Microsoft.” A new video.
“This is the new Microsoft Surface.” He’s holding a tablet. Here’s a press shot:
Steven Sinofsky up now, “A PC that’s a great tablet.” 9.3 millimeters thin. Under 1.5 pounds. All the Windows apps, games. “Movies and entertainment look great as well.”
Showing the Netflix application for Windows 8.
Has a stand as part of the device, Microsoft thinks that integral.
Has a cover with a full mulitouch keyboard. Camera angled at 22 degrees, which helps keep people framed.
Mike Angiulo up now to talk Windows 8 for Surface Pro. Lots of specs, dual antennas for great wifi “no matter how you hold it.”
“This PC has specs that rival those of the finest ultrabooks that have ever been announced.” Has an Intel i5 processor. Has “perimeter venting” so that air can flow without ever being blocked or felt by someone holding it.
Now showing digital ink writing on it and how you can zoom smoothly since there’s “sub pixel” display.
Also has DisplayPort so you can dock it. He’s now dragging photos to the desktop, 5GB he says, quickly and editing with Adobe Lightroom.
Says he can type touch on it as fast as a regular keyboard. Now showing the complete family, the RC2, Intel and AMD? versions I think:
Panos Paney is now up, introducing a video about it. He’s talking about a perfect feel in the hand, then says he’ll say perfect a lot because Microsoft has worked to make everything perfect.
Lots of talk now about the hinges and make it easy to open the kickstand, even to getting the sound of it opening and closing right. “It makes it yours. It goes away when you don’t need it, but it’s there when you do.”
Talk now about the VaporMg (he says it Vaper Mag) case. Magnesium melted down, injection mold, then can make all the details needed down to .65 mm.
“Every micron matters … even if you stuck a piece of tape in the device, it would bulge out.”
Now talking about the touchcover and how it turns blue when you connect it. And was crucial that it had to be 3 mm thin (think that was the measurement), that it had to be thin and useable. And there are magnets! “We force you to not miss.” Someone’s realized I’m finding it hard to make the new iPad cover clip as well as the iPad 2 methinks :)
We’ll fall in love with touchcover. “Outside of my wife, touchcover is number two.”
Even more about touchcover specs. As this point, I’m feeling Microsoft is playing it too hard on these specs now. Got it. This is an iPad with its own cover, a keyboard and which can operate as a fully-functional computer more than appealing heavily to the content consumption crowd. iPad, by the way, hasn’t been mention once.
The keyboard, he says, knows how many keys he’s hit and the weight and lots more awesome stuff.
Sinofsky is back out. Surface for Windows RT will be out in 32 and 64GB and priced like “comparable tablets” using Arm. Windows 8 Pro will be 64GB and 128GB.
RT will be out around when Windows 8 hits and Pro about three months later. You can buy in Microsoft Stores or Microsoft online.
Ballmer back. “I was asked why now .. we took the time to get Windows 8 and Surface right.”
“Because of Windows 8, the Surface is a PC, the Surface is a tablet, and the Surface is something new that we think people will absolutely love.”
And that’s it. Those here (including myself) will get hands-on now. So stay tuned for more. See also coverage developing on Techmeme. The Microsoft press release is here and the new Surface site is here.
Postscript: After the event, I eventually got in to see the Surface tablets in person. Journalists were allowed to in small groups. One table showed the keypad, which is very thin, about the size of an iPad cover. It’s hard to see this working well, but Microsoft swears it does better than regular keyboards. I wish they’d actually let us try them, however. The fact you couldn’t wasn’t encouraging.
I’ve played with a Windows 8 tablet before. They look interesting, especially in terms of offering a full operating system compared to the iPad. I know there are people who use iPads for content creation, but there are many times I find they don’t cut it as a “real” computer. The Windows 8 tablets in general have an opportunity here.
That’s especially so in that I’ve used an Asus Transformer, and just throwing a keyboard on a tablet definitely does not make it a computer. These tablets are designed to plug-in and be used as full computers, if you want.
Of course, Windows 8 tablets already promised that, so what’s really new here? Microsoft is tossing its own brand behind a tablet version of Windows 8. It’s pushing the keypad hard as a distinguishing point, that if you have something so light to carry (and it is light), you can have the best of both tablet and PC worlds.
Oh, and the kickstand. They really love that kickstand. So much time before and after that event was spent talking about the kickstand that it almost felt like Microsoft was kind of desperate for something else to make this special (being a full-fledged computer should be enough).
I’d tell you how Surface was like to use, but I was only allowed to touch it for a few seconds. The minute I tried to do something other than see pretty pictures, say go to the Desktop and view the screen resolution settings, it was snatched out of my hands with a “Nice trick” comment.
The fact we couldn’t play with these more also wasn’t encouraging. But, I gather this is typical for some other gadget-oriented events. Then again, no one appeared to be leaving with or being given demo units, unlike after some Apple events.
I’ll end by saying this. If I could buy only two of three tablets right now, it would be iPad, then Surface (or any Windows 8 tablet), then Android. The iPad is a beautiful tablet for content consumption. Surface (or any Windows 8 tablet) looks to offer something different beyond consumption. An Android tablet doesn’t give me anything different than the iPad and worse. I still don’t find the experience to be better than the iPad.
If I couldn’t have a computer and only a tablet, then I’d likely go Surface or a Windows 8 tablet. That’s because having used one at the Microsoft SXSW booth, I feel like I could have a real computer for when I need it but the convenience and easy of a tablet a well.