Is it a tablet or a PC? Microsoft announced Monday evening a new piece of hardware that’s very much both.
In a highly anticipated but secrecy-shrouded press conference in Los Angeles, the software giant introduced the Microsoft Surface, a 10.6-inch computer tablet to rival the Apple iPad that also works like an ultrabook computer. When connected to a magnetic cover with a built-in keyboard, the tablet can be used like a laptop computer.
It is the first fully-integrated hardware product created by the Redmond, Wash., company since its Xbox 360 video game console was introduced in 2005.
Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division, called the device a "tablet that’s a great PC — a PC that’s a great tablet."
The Microsoft Surface is only 9.3mm thick and weighs less than 1.5 pounds. It also has a USB 2.0 port for connectivity to a computer and utilizes a special screen that responds not only to touch but also can be written on with a special digital stylus.
There will be two models of the Surface, one that is powered by an ARM processor and runs on Microsoft’s upcoming tablet-based Windows RT operating system, and a more powerful version that runs on an Intel i5 processor that works with the Windows 8 desktop OS. The Windows RT version will come in two storage capacities, 32 gigabytes and 64 gigabytes.
Pricing and availabilty were not announced Monday, but Microsoft officials said the device will be comparably priced to other tablets that utilize the ARM processor and ultranotebooks that use Intel processors (all under $1,000). The Windows RT version is expected to be released sometime later this year with the expected release of Windows 8. The Intel version could be released several months afterward.
Microsoft also introduced two magnetic covers for the Surface, one with touch keys and another with physical keys for more of a tactile feel when typing. The covers will come in a variety of colors.
Most importantly, the new tablet was constructed from the ground up to work with Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8, the next version of its PC operating system that also is designed for tablets. Radically different from other versions of Windows, the OS will use an interface full of tiles, called Metro, instead of the traditional icons.
Since the introduction of the iPad in 2010, Apple has dominated the computer tablet market, with Samsung and the Amazon Kindle Fire a distant second and third. But as a market, tablets have exploded. In a new survey by research firm comScore, one in every four smartphone users also had a computer tablet during a three-month period ending in April, an 11.8 percent increase from the same time last year. Adults in the U.S. who own a tablet nearly doubled, from 10 percent to 19 percent from December to January, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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