Microsoft today unveiled a major tablet initiative to compete with Apple’s iPad, Google’s Android, and its own PC hardware partners.
The Microsoft Surface is a 10.6″ tablet powered by Windows 8, coming in two distinct versions — both equipped with touch screens. One will be powered by an ARM processor and will be more like a traditional tablet running Windows RT. The other will be powered by Intel’s 22nm Ivy Bridge chips running the desktop version of Windows 8.
The Windows RT version is just 9.3mm thin, weighs 1.5lbs, includes a built-in kickstand and is the first PC with a vapor-deposited (PVD) magnesium case, according to Microsoft. It will ship in 32GB or 64GB versions.
Microsoft’s Intel-based Surface tablet will run Windows 8 Pro, with a thickness of 13.5mm, a weight of 1.9lb, and USB 3.0 support. This particular version will also include magnesium casing and a built-in kickstand, but will ship with either 64GB or 128GB storage. The Intel version will include additional digital ink support through a pen that magnetizes to the body of the tablet.
In addition to the tablet itself, Microsoft will sell two Smart Cover-like devices that attach magnetically to the Surface. Unlike Apple’s add-on, which serves only as screen protection and as a stand, Microsoft’s Touch Cover and Type Cover turn into a full-sized keyboard complete with a built-in trackpad. Microsoft says using the Touch Cover is “twice as efficient as typing on glass”, a clear shot at the iPad’s on-screen keyboard.
Microsoft did not share any information on pricing or availability, saying both the ARM and Intel editions would be price competitive with like products.