Microsoft representatives (R) show the new Surface tablet computer to members of the media as it is unveiled by Microsoft in Los Angeles, California. Reuters/David McNew
Amidst much secrecy and speculation, Microsoft finally introduced its Surface tablet with an aim to take on long-term rival Apple's best-selling consumer product, iPad.
The new device, unveiled by Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, has created a buzz in the tech world and social media and is touted as the next consumer favourite. While the initial hands-on reviews are favourable and lauding the design and features, the final verdict will only come after the reviewers see it up-close.
While we await the detailed reviews and comparisons, here's a quick look at what the reviewers are raving about based on first impressions of the Surface tablet:
With Windows 8, Microsoft refused to just address the tablet market but also the laptop market. It wanted to create “no-compromise PCs” and that seems to be what the Surface is all about. It is a tablet to read on and interact with, it’s a video player when you kick up the stand and set it back, and it’s a laptop replacement when you attach the cover.
First, there’s the design of the device itself. Microsoft has tried to make Surface into a Swiss Army Knife type of tablet that features both a kickstand and a snap-on keyboard. The good news is that neither of these features are terribly obtrusive as the kickstand just slides right back into the tablet and the keyboard can be either snapped off or flipped over like a book...Well, Microsoft didn’t let me spend nearly enough time with its Surface tablets to write a comprehensive review and since the devices are still a long way from being released, I’m going to assume that’s because Microsoft is still putting a lot of finishing touches on them. But what I saw looked really intriguing, and Microsoft has at least in concept created a tablet computer that can also double as a PC. While this alone certainly won’t be enough to help Microsoft compete with the mighty Apple iPad, it does breathe some much-needed life into Microsoft’s mobile product line.
Even after some brief handling, we feel impressed, almost sobered by what Microsoft's managed to produce after vowing to take the Windows 8 hardware-software package into its own hands. Surface for Windows RT is well-made, polished, durable and carefully engineered. And yes, that's sobering news: Microsoft's own OEM partners, everyone from ASUS to Acer to HP, should feel a tinge of defensiveness. If Redmond's mission until now has been to showcase all the possible form factors for Windows 8, it may have just taken a step in the opposite direction by upstaging everybody else.
Microsoft kept touting build quality, and for good reason: the Windows RT Surface tablet is solid and stunning. Attention to detail is positively amazing, and it's so well designed from every angle that it's just a joy to look at. The keyboard is so thin it seems made from fabric. The lines are gorgeous, and it's a well-balanced device that you'll be able to hold for extended sessions. It is, certainly, easier to hang on to than any of the three generations of iPads to date. So. Yes. It's awesome. It's going to be fantastic. Google had better step things up at IO, because this Windows RT tablet is far more impressive than any shipping Android tablet I've ever seen. It's a clear rival to the iPad. Or at least, so it seems.
Happily, its range of tablets looks reasonably attractive. They’re thin, lightweight and contain useful features, such as a cover that doubles as a stand and keyboard. Moreover, they will play well with the company's Office software, making them attractive to corporate customers. Microsoft has also cleverly hedged its bets producing tablets that run either Intel or ARM processors. That means users can either opt for one that essentially replicates everything a PC does, or buy one with fewer applications and longer battery life. Yet there are more than a few worries. Microsoft glossed over discussion about battery life, price or when people can get their hands on them. Another concern is that producing the device may alienate PC allies such as Dell and HP. And the biggest worry of all is that the iPad and Android ecosystems have had several years head start. This means lots more users, apps and developers. To catch up, good may not be enough.
Microsoft truly has paid close attention to the details. This tablet is one of the few with a full-sized USB port--and thank goodness for that. The Windows RT version of Surface has USB 2.0, with USB 3.0 on the Windows 8 Professional version...The Surface tablet's integrated kickstand is sheer brilliance, and it felt sturdily designed when I lifted it up and held the prototype tablet by its kickstand.