Microsoft is to launch a Windows 8 tablet called Surface this autumn, the software giant announced yesterday.
The move sees Microsoft throw down the gauntlet to Apple’s iPad. It also poses a threat to manufacturer’s planning to launch their own Windows 8 tablets.
The new tablet will run a variation of Windows 8, the latest version of the company's flagship operating system.
The 9.3mm tablet, which was showcased at a press event yesterday, sports a 10.6-inch optically-bonded Gorilla Glass 2 HD screen and features a built-in kickstand that allows the device to be propped up for watching videos. It also comes with a Touch Cover, a detachable slim cover that doubles as a keyboard.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the product was part of a long-standing tradition at Microsoft to create hardware, like computer mice, that show off innovations in its software.
He said: ‘We want to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovations.’
Microsoft said one version of the Surface tablet would come with 32GB or 64GB of storage and be powered by a Nvidia-made ARM chip. The company said the price would be comparable to that of other tablets that use ARM chips. The device will come in a variety of bright colours.
A professional version of the tablet using an Intel processor will also be launched.
The ARM tablet will be available when Microsoft launches Windows 8 RT this autumn, with the Intel version released a few months later.
Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager at technology analyst IDC, said Microsoft was gunning for the business user with the launch of the Surface tablet. He said: ‘At the centre of CEO Steve Ballmer's presentation was a single message: the integration between the hardware and the software is key to deliver better experiences to end-users.
‘The hardware designed by Microsoft tries to capture the interest from users for a device that combines a PC-like and a tablet experience. Therefore, this tablet is clearly targeted at professional users in the first place. The physical keyboard, the lack of a camera and the focus on the MS Office environment shows that Microsoft is targeting the business segment, where they can differentiate and take some share from Apple.’
However, he warned that Microsoft will have to educate consumers on its broader convergence strategy if it is to make the Surface a success.
‘Hardware-wise Microsoft did a very good job by launching a device that can really be exciting and different but it needs to deliver what it has been promising with the new Windows 8 strategy.
'Consumers will not buy and specially not pay a premium price for the Surface until they understand what additional value they can get compared with the iPad and how the device integrates with their PCs, gaming console, Windows Phones, etc.
'The entire ecosystem is what will make Microsoft proposition attractive and not unlinked pieces of it.’