Following a recent leak of documents detailing a few things about the upcoming Xbox 720, Microsoft hastily organized a press conference debuting its newest foray into consumer electronics, the Surface Tablet.
While the announcement itself does nothing really surprising, I mean we were all expecting for Microsoft to do this eventually, it does lend some more credence to the accuracy of the leaked documents. Furthering that notion was the fact that the documents were pulled down from several sites, after being contacted by a law firm.
Microsoft is taking aim at all of its competitors, not only in the software sector, but in each area of business it is engaged in, with this newest project. Tablets are a hot commodity, ever since the iPad first debuted. It has often been the wish of myself and others, to be able to control every aspect of my digital experience from a unified platform, rather than relying on poorly made apps, interfaces and homebrewed hacks. Something like the Surface will allow this.
The Surface, for now, will be an all black tablet, similar in appearance to the iPad, with a built in kickstand and flip cover that doubles as a keyboard. The keyboard itself seems to come in a variety of colors, based on all the images I have seen, and features a smart technology that senses when the cover has been closed and the keyboard is no longer needed. It will come in two varieties, a slightly smaller and lighter version, featuring Windows RT (which is essentially a diluted down version of Windows 8 suitable to run on the hardware specifications) and a USB 2.0 port, and the larger version with USB 3.0, Windows 8 Professional and a full Intel Core I5 processor. Exact details and specifications are noted here (.pdf file), and provided as an image below (click for full size).
What is not known, however is how much this thing will cost, or when it will be available for purchase. During the presentation, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated the Surface will be “priced competitively” with other similar devices. Now for the Windows RT version of the Surface, that will put it in line with other tablets, but the Windows 8 Pro will likely be priced well above the average consumer. More than likely, the price of the Windows 8 Pro Surface will breach $1000 USD, and possibly higher.
I am impressed with the idea of the Surface, but I am just not convinced until I see one in action. The smaller, less feature rich version will likely perform fine, but I wonder how the larger Windows 8 Pro version will handle common issues, such as heat build up. Using a larger processor means more power, more power means more heat. In such a small package, it seems to me you would end up holding a hot plate in your hand after an hour’s worth of use. Full interoperability of the Surface is something that would be a tipping point for some, but for now, it remains to be seen.
Other questions remain unanswered, particularly how well this device will integrate with the upcoming next gen console from Microsoft. Will it function as a controller? Will you be able to use the Surface as an extension of the console, and play games? Certainly if there is some form of remote access included in the next Xbox it is a possibility, as the console, or even your PC would be running the hardware. Certain services, such as OnLive, are already making great strides in this area, as we can see in this video from 2009 showing Crysis being played on an Apple iPhone.
Microsoft is stepping up its game with the Surface, lets see if it makes a slam dunk, or falls flat on its ass.
Rick first got his start in gaming with the Atari 2600 console, and it was all downhill from there. Now he spends his free time writing about games and technology for Sergeant Merrell, and is also on the Off Duty Gamers staff. His prior service as a United States Marine, and in law enforcement, give him a peculiar sense of humor, so be advised.