Microsoft made a major announcement on June 18, 2012. Speculations were building due to the mysterious nature of the invitations to journalists about the Los Angeles media event. Many industry experts predicted that Microsoft would unveil either a tablet computer or a system that uses an upcoming version of Windows to help people access TV shows and movies across a range of devices. The event seemed to imitate the Apple style introduction of new products trying to tap into their success.
The suspense was building when the company, which had withheld the location of the event until Monday morning, announced it would be held at Milk Studios, the photography studio of a media company with locations in New York.
Steve Balmer’s introduction talked about how the new device fits into their strategy of the new Windows 8 operating system and the full MS ecosystem that competes with Apple’s. Steve Sinofsky from the Windows team revealed more details. “A tablet that’s a great PC, a PC that’s a great tablet. A new kind of computing.”
Surface comes with advanced industrial design completely designed by Microsoft employees. Surface represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity. Extensive investment in industrial design and real user experience includes the following highlights:
- Software takes center stage: Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out.
- VaporMg: The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.
- Integrated Kickstand: The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.
- Touch Cover: The 3 mm Touch Cover represents a step forward in human-computer interface. Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. It will be available in a selection of vibrant colors. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.
Two models of Surface will be available: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT, and one with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro. From the fast and fluid interface, to the ease of connecting you to the people, information and apps that users care about most, Surface will be a premium way to experience all that Windows has to offer. Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.
Contributing to an Expanded Ecosystem
One of the strengths of Windows is its extensive ecosystem of software and hardware partners, delivering selection and choice that makes a customer’s Windows experience uniquely their own. This continues with Surface. Microsoft is delivering a unique contribution to an already strong and growing ecosystem of functional and stylish devices delivered by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bring the experience of Windows to consumers and businesses around the globe.
Surface for Windows RT
- OS: Windows RT
- Light(1): 676 g
- Thin(2): 9.3 mm
- Clear: 10.6” ClearType HD Display
- Energized: 31.5 W-h
- Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
- Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
- Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
- Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro
- OS: Windows 8 Pro
- Light(1): 903 g
- Thin(2): 13.5 mm
- Clear: 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display
- Energized: 42 W-h
- Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
- Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
- Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
- Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB
Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.
Steve Sinofsky was emphasizing the ergonomic aspects as well. “Feels great in your hands, like a book. It just fits there.”
Surface also has built in HDMI, HD video camera. “If you use your PC to design and create things, this is for you. It’s less than 2 lbs, less than 14mm. It’s a full PC.” The surface also has a great resolution display. Anguilo was basically calling it a retina display without using those words. Dual high performance antennas and receivers, so you get the best WiFi performance no matter how you hold it. The two by two MIMO should also increase the range for WiFi.
The smart cover is called a “touch cover”. “This PC has specs that rival those of the finest ultrabooks that have ever been announced.”
Surface uses “digital ink,” so you can write on it with a stylus. The ink is 650 dpi. The distance between it and the pen is the closest of any stylus ever. “Windows sees the proximity of the pen, and stops taking touch input.” The pen is magnetic, so it just connects to the top of the device.
Microsoft is calling Surface a PC, and are very careful not to call it a tablet. Surface also has a full modern trackpad with clicking buttons.
Later in the presentation Panos Panay took the stage, the leader of the Surface team. In a video showing the people who worked on it, a lot of shots showing the folks making it in the factory in China. MS is probably trying to contrast with Foxconn and Apple.