Microsoft doesn't want to take any chances with Windows 8 -- if it's going to be the best operating system ever, it's going to need some serious hardware. So Microsoft has built its own tablet. Meet Surface.
The Microsoft Surface is a tablet and a PC at the same time...
Microsoft's home-cooked tablet is a very thin cookie: the non-Pro version is only 9.3mm thick (a little less than the iPad), 676g (a little more than iPad), and packs a 10.6-inch, 16:9 "ClearType" 1920x1080 display, available with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. ClearType is definitely aiming for a retina connotation, although Microsoft's screen falls short of Apple's 264 pixels per inch at 208.
Surface packs the usual front-facing and rear-facing cameras, an SD slot, as well as a full-sized USB port, along with some neat tricks: magnesium casing, DisplayPort out, Gorilla Glass, a kickstand (hmm) and a subtle groove around the entirety of the device to help keep the Pro version cool. Microsoft also claims Surface will have the best Wi-Fi reception of any tablet ever, with 2x2 MIMO antennae -- wireless antennae that are harder to block while you're holding the tablet.
...that comes in two versions...
This is an ugh! or a yeah! depending on who you are, but Surface, like everything Windows, will come in two flavours. The aforementioned super-skinny variant runs Windows RT on an ARM processor (like the one in your phone or most other tablets), while the Pro version runs an Ivy Bridge Core i5 x86 processor and "ultrabook specs", whatever that means. It'll be a little thicker and heavier, though not by much. The Pro Surface will be available with either 64GB or 128GB of storage.
...that runs Windows 8...
Surface is designed specifically for Windows 8's best tricks: it'll support semantic zoom (awesome!), a stylus (not awesome!), while providing a perfectly super-flat frame for the perfectly super-flat Metro UI. Only the Pro version will run the standard Windows desktop, the full OS, meaning requisite software like Office and Photoshop are on the go with you. The RT brother will only roll with Metro "apps". The Pro should be the best of both computing worlds.
...and uses one of the coolest accessories we've ever seen.
The Surface can be paired with a magnetic cover, just like the iPad's. They come in a Crayola box of colours, just like the iPad's. But the Surface's cover also doubles as a full, extremely thin keyboard and multitouch trackpad, whereas the iPad's is just... a cover. This is a brilliant move on Microsoft's part -- one of the most clever things it's ever squeezed out, and something that instantly makes Surface one of the most exciting devices we've eyed in some time. Not just another black rectangle.
Unfortunately, there's no word on pricing just yet (beyond a meaningless claim of "competitive"). Expect to pay tablet-ish prices for the RT version, laptop prices for the Pro version -- probably around the MacBook Air range. As far as availability, we only know Windows RT will launch alongside Windows 8, and the Ivy Bridge super-version will follow 90 days later. Hey, look, a company that isn't Apple just built something awesome. [Microsoft]