Microsoft Announces Surface Tablet [Updated]

After much cloak-and-dagger-style secrecy, Microsoft today unveiled two Microsoft Surface tablets — 9.3mm thin devices powered by Windows RT and Windows 8.

The first device, called the Surface for Windows RT, is designed to be super-thin with beveled edges, a magnesium case and has a USB 2.0 port on board. The two tablets will run a series of apps specifically designed for it, including Xbox and Netflix (for the US-only, of course), complete with a link to the Windows application store. We also know that it's covered in Corning's Gorilla Glass 2.

The device will come with a super-thin kickstand that connects using magnets to keep the device level for desk-based media consumption, and it also acts like a cover and a multitouch keyboard. That's impressive.

Microsoft demonstrated a full-version of Office for the ARM-powered Windows RT Surface tablet during the keynote, before calling the device "a great choice for professionals".

The company wasn't done with surprises though, unveiling a second Surface tablet — dubbed Surface for Windows 8 Pro — running a third-generation Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) chip for full Windows 8 support. The Intel tablet comes with a stylus that magnetically clips to the side of the device and the tablet itself supports digital ink.

For the Intel-powered surface, Microsoft gave users the same multi-touch keyboard they had on for the ARM-powered Windows RT Surface, before adding another Type Cover which integrates the screen cover with a physical keyboard and touchpad.

Microsoft was cagey with pricing and availability details, saying that the Surface tablet for Windows RT will priced the same as other ARM-powered tablets, while the Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet will be priced like an ultrabook. The ARM tablet will launch with Windows 8, which is rumoured to be around October, while the Intel tablet will come three months later.

"With Windows 8, we don't want to leave any scene uncovered...we wanted to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovation...something new, something different," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said before announcing the the Surface tablets.

Steve Ballmer opened the event by talking up change in the technology landscape over the last few years, citing cloud computing as one of the big drivers for change. He added, however, that "Windows is the heart and soul" of Microsoft's business. The pre-announcement bragfest went on, with Ballmer saying that Windows powers over a billion computers worldwide. Windows 8, Ballmer said, would serve as a reimagination of the Windows product, citing IDC figures stating that 375 million PCs would ship this year alone.

The exuberant executive moved into a conversation about mobility, admitting that the future of the PC is mobile, before breaking into a retrospective video about Microsoft hardware dating back to the 1980s, right through to the Xbox and Kinect before toasting to the next 30 years of products.

Ballmer said that the most successful piece of Microsoft hardware has in fact been the Xbox line of products, saying that a combination of hardware and software all built by the company is key to its success.

There was a lot of build up to the event over the last week, with rumours circulating that US book retailer Barnes and Noble were involved in the announcement. The book chain came out and denied the rumours this morning, however, saying that it was in no way connected with Microsoft.


Surface for Windows RT

Screen 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
CPU ARM processor
Camera TBA
Storage 32GB, 64GB, Expandable Storage TBA
Connectivity TBA, 2x2 MIMO Antennae
Weight 676g
Price TBA

Surface for Windows 8 Pro

Screen 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
CPU Intel 3rd Generation Core i5 (Ivy Bridge)
Camera TBA
Storage 64GB, 128GB, Expandable Storage TBA
Connectivity TBA, 2x2 MIMO Antennae
Weight 903g
Price TBA

MORE: What Is Your Next Tablet? 45 Tablets Compared.

Images: Getty/Kevork Djansezian

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