Microsoft Surface tablets: Obviously designed for me

Microsoft Surface tablets: Obviously designed for me

Summary: The new Surface tablets from Microsoft with the innovative keyboard covers could be just what I need for my mobile work.


Image credit: Ed Bott/ZDNet

Hand it to Microsoft, the normally stiff-necked company got representatives of the press to line up and wait eagerly for a product announcement. Two new Surface tablets were shown, albeit briefly, and left some definite impressions. What little I saw of the new tablets from afar made it clear that Microsoft made them for me.

Colleague Ed Bott attended the Microsoft unveiling and has some wonderfully detailed impressions of the new Surface tablets. He also has some big questions for Microsoft about them that are worth a read.

See also: Microsoft's new Surface tablets make a solid first impression

The business situation aside, primarily how will WIndows PC makers react to direct competition from Microsoft, my impressions of the tablets have me excited and anxious to get one.

I have detailed how useful a tablet with a decent keyboard attachment can be for me in my work. Microsoft must have paid attention as the two new keyboard covers are well designed for my purposes. I'm not convinced the Touch cover will work given it's pseudo keys, although attendees of the event assure me it works just fine. The Type cover on the other hand looks perfect, a thin cover with real keys for a touch typist.

See also:

The engineering and design of the two Surface tablets look magnificent, as Microsoft obviously felt the need to go big or go home with its own hardware. The tablets look like nothing on the market, and a good platform for running Windows 8/Windows RT.

My biggest interest is in the Windows RT model, as I think it has the potential to create a splash in the big tablet market. Unfortunately Microsoft didn't divulge a few key pieces of information that will affect that potential. We don't know how much these new tablets will cost, when they will ship, and how long they will run in the real world on a single charge.

If those three things end up being good news, the Surface tablets may make a splash in a crowded market. So far Microsoft has accomplished what it set out to do, but it needs to get them on the market quickly. HP made a huge mistake of announcing the TouchPad tablet too long before availability, and the big excitement created at launch was completely gone by ship date.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • Microsoft always had the ability to design and market a superior keyboard.

    I like the keyboard covers! Of course, I will have to type with one first and see if they have any advantages over a software virtual keyboard design. The obvious disadvantage of using the keyboard cover is the requirement to find a flat surface (and possibly a chair as well) in order to use it for an extended period of time.

    I have to ask, James, if you ever did get that iPad Kickstarter soft keyboard product? I received my Cregel iPen Kickstarter product and now that a few software apps have been modified to work with it, the iPen performs it's niche abilities rather well.
    • No Kickstarter KB

      It's now slated to start delivering the end of June. We'll see. Someone at the MS press event yesterday told me you can use those KB covers in the lap, they are that steady.
  • Yes...

    I agree: the keyboard cover with the real keys is the one I'd go for.

    I think I'd still prefer the form factor of my ASUS Tranformer TF300, and if I were to buy a Windows 8 tablet I'd probably hold out for ASUS' offering (they've already shown what is bsaically a Win 8 transformer) but I'm definitely eager to try one of Microsoft's tablets out.
  • Right

    So, you're saying that a highly mobile device that can potentially run high performance windows applications with input options other than just the touch-screen was designed for someone who needs a highly mobile device that can run high performance windows applications with input options other than just the touch-screen. Sounds to me like this device was designed for people who like options and computing power, at least the Intel model. To me, it looks like a great idea and entry-level device to enter the ever-increasingly-hyperbolic "Post PC Era".

    What I see is MS just did a 'pure-form' windows 8 tablet where everything is very contingent on the ability of Win8 to perform as advertised on smaller form factors. I still think OEMs can differentiate with different hybrid devices--say a Win8RT tablet that hooks into a Win8 x86 base with GPUs, more memory, etc. and the OS switches with little transition. We'll see what happens.
    • Au contraire

      I have little interest in the full Windows 8 tablet they showed. I am anxious for the Windows RT, which is pure mobile and doesn't run legacy Windows apps.
      • Apps sway me the other way

        The ability to run x86 Windows apps pushes me towards the Pro model. I us my HP Slate primarily to run apps that would be easily duplicated on RT. But 5 or 10 percent of the time I want to run an Win7 app - Acrobat Pro, Notes Client, etc. (and Turbo Tax each April).

        Plus, I like the stylus option (Wacom from some of the pictures I saw). I do wish it was smaller, though.
  • another M$ flop

    Android has a better interface. The only chance for M$ is to put a Linux distro on it and monetize the hardware.
    The Linux Geek
  • WinRT and Win8 Pro - Different targets and success?

    Personally, I think that MS was smart to offer two tablets, one with RT and one with Win8 Pro. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Win8 Pro model be the real kick-started to Windows tablets. I know many professionals who would love to have this tablet (myself included). A full Win8 system in a tiny form factor would be great for those who travel regularly. Lighter and more powerful than most of the 12" laptops on the market, plus more flexible with the removable keyboard.

    The WinRT model has to compete against the iPad, and that is a very tough market. The Win8 Pro model has to compete against ultrabooks, and I think it has a big advantage there (assuming the price is competitive). Unfortunately for MS, most corporate entities buy in bulk from one of the major computer suppliers (Dell, HP, Lenovo). MS may have a hard time getting in the door to sell a single tablet.

    But if HP, Dell, or Lenovo build a very similar tablet or agree to carry this tablet, the Win8 Pro tablet market will go sky high.
  • Cost.

    I think (hoping, anyway), that they know they'll have to be aggressive with pricing to get this thing off the ground.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Microsoft knows hardware.

    They can make some of the best hardware around. Look at mice and keyboards, joysticks in the past, nothing better out there. If they price it right, it could sell like hotcakes and jump start Windows Phone sales and Windows apps as well.
  • Get the price right M$

    You got the Ipod3 at $399, Ipod2 at $299. How 'bout right in the middle - the RT version for $349.00. I would definitely buy one at that price. Nobody has really talked about mass storage. 32 and 64MB really isn't much in the way of memory. Really looking forward to the rollout.
    • Get the price right M$

      You probably meant 32 & 64GB.
      But in any case the tablets appear to be what the Windows users have been waiting.
      In my case, if Microsoft just delivers what was shown at a reasonable price, I'm in for the Surface Pro, and at least 2 or 3 RT versions for the wife and mom.

      Now if one of the 3rd party vendors makes an adapter that I can connect to a VGA connector for most of the projectors that are still being used at training centers, life is good.

      And since it's coming from Microsoft there should be no crapware!
  • Why does MS have to be less than IPad?

    I think most people think that they can influence MS pricing of its new surface, NOT! Everyone is right on asking the question about battery life and I think a more important question is Office for the surface. If this product can be the equivalent of the the desktop app, then one is getting more value than the IPad and why would MS price it less?? It all depends onthe Office apps, if they are like the web apps no one will buy this thing!!!
  • ignorance is bliss?

    This product is no game-changer. IF MS can release it expediently, IF it is relatively bug-free, IF it has a good selection of apps, IF the keyboard works well, IF the price is right, IF the battery life is good, THEN it will have a solid entry. The last 20 years of MS suggest these things are unlikely, however, we will have to wait and see.

    As to this article. The author must know very little about tablets, and have even less common sense. If you want a "tablet with a decent keyboard", you can already get an Ipad with a Logitech keyboard cover, or a Asus Transformer. Either would be better than a tablet with a STAND. It's going to be very fun trying to balance this on your lap, armrest, or other award places.
  • Tell me why a floppy keyboard cover is a good thing on a mobile device..

    My first tablet device was the iPad 2. My primary goal with the iPad was to remotely administrate my Linux servers while on the go, next was for social media, email, etc.. so I purchased a Kingston bluetooth keyboard case. When I travel with family, I'm often in the passenger seat working remotely and because the keyboard is bluetooth and a solid piece of plastic, I can set it on my lap or even remove it from the case and use it easily.

    I'm not a Microsoft fan, but my skepticism for this product has nothing to do with the OS or the company. For argument sake, let's say you can 'reinstall' with a Linux distro - the device still has one glaring flaw in my opinion - the requrement for a solid surface on which to use the keyboard.

    Isn't that part of the draw to having a tablet - the ability to use it while you are not sitting at a desk or table?

    Maybe they have a solution for that, but I'm not seeing it.
    • LOL and arghhh!

      Re: "the device still has one glaring flaw in my opinion - the requrement for a solid surface on which to use the keyboard."

      Are iFad cultists really THAT dense or just pretending to be? All the whining everywhere about having to use the cover keyboard, when you can of course use an on-screen keyboard any time if you like, even standing up, or of course you can use any bluetooth (or even usb) keyboard any time you like. Duhhh!!!!
      Joe Acerbic