Microsoft's game-changing tablets: 5 talking points

The venerable tech giant leaps into the hardware business with a dynamic line of Windows 8 touchscreen slabs. Should Apple be afraid?

By Jun 19, 2012 4:38PM

Microsoft (MSFT), which has long made its living through software and operating systems, announced Monday that it's getting into the hardware business with Windows-powered tablets that will compete with Apple's (AAPL) dominant iPad.

Microsoft will release two versions of its tablet, dubbed Surface, both of which come with a kickstand, keyboard, and stylus. Some details are still hazy -- like pricing and the release date -- but the tablets are expected to premiere in time for the holiday season. 

Here are five talking points from Monday's big unveiling:

1. This is a big gamble for Microsoft
Microsoft "rarely makes its own hardware," say John Hermann and Matt Buchanan at BuzzFeed, usually leaving the actual computer building to partners like Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), or Lenovo (LNVGY). And when Microsoft has actually made machinery itself, it has a pretty "spotty record," says Dominic Rushe at Britain's Guardian. Sure, "Microsoft's Xbox video gaming system is a world leader," but "its iPod rival Zune and Kin telephones proved disasters." (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

2. Microsoft will offer two different tablets
A thinner, more portable Surface runs Windows 8 RT and has similar dimensions to Apple's iPad. It uses NVIDIA's ARM processor and feels "very polished, with tight, clean lines," says Dieter Bohn at The Verge. The "Pro" Surface touts Windows 8 Pro and is slightly thicker (13.5 mm versus 9.3 mm). It boasts what Microsoft calls "Full HD," and runs Intel's snappier Ivy Bridge processor. "That means only the latter will be able to run all your Windows programs," says Hayley Tsukayama at the Washington Post.

3. Surface's screen isn't as sharp as the iPad's
The Surface tablets both boast iPad-sized 10.6-inch screens. Surface has a 1920 x 1080 display that the company is calling "ClearType," and the name is "definitely aiming for a Retina connotation," says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. But Surface offers just 208 pixels per inch, compared to the iPad's 264. The verdict: Your iPad's Retina display is sharper.

4. Its keyboard cover is revolutionary
The Surface works like any touchscreen tablet -- but with a twist. The tablet comes standard with a kickstand and magnetic cover that snaps on like the iPad's, but Microsoft's version does Apple one better: The Surface cover doubles as an extremely thin keyboard and gesture-based touchpad. "This is a brilliant move on Microsoft's part," says Gizmodo's Biddle, "and something that instantly makes Surface one of the most exciting devices we've eyed in some time." Microsoft claims that typing on the tactile cover is twice as efficient as typing on a touchscreen.

5. But its other features are lacking
"I'm a sucker for techno-glitz," says Matt Novak at BuzzFeed, "but actually holding the Surface just isn't that satisfying." The pop-out stand makes the tablet noticeably bulkier than the iPad  -- a no-no when it comes to portability. And what's with the stylus, asks Ian Paul at PC World. Apparently, "Microsoft couldn't resist giving a nod to its legacy tablets," like the digital-pen-equipped Windows Tablet PC released in 2002, which was discontinued. But haven't consumers already used their swiping fingers to say, "Thanks, but not thanks?" The stylus is a questionable inclusion on Microsoft's part.

Judge for yourself; watch a video at

Sources: BuzzFeedGuardianThe VergeWashington PostGizmodoPC World

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Jun 19, 2012 6:01PM
Unlike an iPad toy this machine is going to be use by real businesses to make money.

The stylus is so a business user can pass the tablet to a customer and say SIGN here please.

Jun 19, 2012 6:09PM

1) What gamble? They're setting the standard for Window's 8 consumer and enterprise tablets and unlike Apple but like Google anybody that wants a piece of Apple's pie has to compete.

2) Microsoft offers two versions - Yes, one for cost conscious consumers and one for over paid enterprise road warriors. Apple only has the former.

3) Surface's screen isn't as sharp as Apples - Well who give's a crapple about that? The rest of the devices features beat Apple's and the Pro version runs everything in the enterprise world.

4) The keyboard cover is revolutionary - Yea, you got one out of five or 20%

5) But the other features are lacking - Apple fanboys comments don't count. That's prejudice opinions by an obvious Apple bigot. -20%


Your article is worth nothing.

Jun 19, 2012 10:47PM
Spotty track record with hardware? Microsoft keyboards, mice and cameras have been stupendous for decades. The Zune was a wonderful piece of hardware. Sure the Xbox had some growing pains but those have been ironed out and it's outstanding as well. Honestly, if there's any hardware I trust it's been Microsoft branded hardware.
Jun 19, 2012 10:01PM

I love it when iSheeple comment on the Surface features that the iPtoy doesn't have like "why would anybody need that?" So let's go over it together. 2 versions of Surface, a competively priced "consumer" oriented version and a "look I can do some real work" pro business version. iPad has old version and newer old version. Both Surface versions have keyboards and kick stands. iPad, nada. Both versions have external ports, iPad nada. The pro version will have a stylus, I'm an IT professional and I think a stylus is a great tool. Yes you can write and draw with your finger but a stylus like a pen or pencil makes that task easier, more efficient, and infinitely more comfortable. I Agree 264 vs 208 ppi is higher, but I dare you to be able to tell the difference from a normal viewing position and I'm pretty sure there is a good chance the ppi will go up before the product is available to the public. Now as for Microsoft's "spotty" hardware record; the last version of the Zune was a good device but it was too late and the Kin was a disaster. However the XBox and Kinect are industry leaders and Microsoft peripherals like web cams, mice (arc mouse is amazing), and keyboards have all been reliable and good products. 

If you think my reply to the article is biased towards Microsoft; then perhaps it is but no more so than the article is against. Not everything Microsoft has done has been great but these products look good, and as somebody who has used the early Win8 release these products will only make the OS experience even better.

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