After all those in-depth speculations, Microsoft's finally unveiled its chic tablet, Surface. The software giant has made its presence felt for the past three decades, crafting ingenious software for computing, but this is the first tablet that it has ever built. Microsoft was a late entrant into the mobile world that had just two powerful entities – Apple and Android. Microsoft’s initial smartphones didn’t get much love and the company had begun to lose ground in the mobile terrain. The company bounced back with the tiled Windows Phone UI, and then made the big announcement of Windows 8, which would offer seamless experience for various platforms, like smartphones, tablets and desktops.

What is Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT?
Yesterday, as we pondered over what the big Microsoft announcement was, we wondered whether the company’s tablet would be based on Windows RT (Windows 8 operating system for ARM devices) or Windows 8. Interestingly, Microsoft dished out both – its new Surface line-up includes both – the Windows Surface RT (ARM tablet as Windows RT) and the Windows 8 Pro.

To begin with, if you are still confused over the Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro naming, then let us make it simple first. Windows RT is the name given to the Windows 8 operating system that will run on ARM-based devices. So, is that the only difference? Well, the answer is – No. Windows 8 (Windows 8 Pro) features both – a touch Metro UI and the traditional desktop seen in Windows 7. On the other hand, Windows RT will feature only the Metro UI. It is a complete touch experience without the traditional desktop. Windows Metro apps, according to MS will work across Windows 8 and Windows RT. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be like a full fledged computer that can run exe files.

Microsoft displayed the Surface for Windows RT, featuring a classy and chic look. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro is said to feature the same design, but it will be a tad thicker and heavier. The casing of Surface has been created using a unique approach, called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mould metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. This finish helps the tablet exhibit a premium look and feel. Both tablets go beyond the existing screen sizes, and brings a large screen experience with displays measuring 10.6-inch. Both feature a high-res, 16:9 ClearType screen. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out. The Surface for Windows RT is 9.3mm slim and weighs 676 grams, while the Surface for Windows 8 Pro is a tad heavy at 903 grams and 13.5mm in thickness. Moreover, Microsoft has also added in the integral kickstand that adds viewing convenience. It is has been integrated using the VaporMg and is a part of the device without adding external bulk.

One of the highlights of the new Microsoft tablets is the Touch Cover. This cover may remind you of the popular foldable iPad cover. However, Microsoft has more to it. This cover is about 3mm thick and if you just flip it, the back serves as a keyboard. So, now you may get a clear idea why the company added the kickstand. The keyboard also comes integrated with a multi-touch trackpad, and will be made available in vibrant colours. Using the unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than on an on-screen keyboard. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine, like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel. Now, this makes the Surface for Windows 8 Pro a perfect alternative for your netbooks.

Then there are two cameras – the front LifeCam to chat, while the rear-facing LifeCam is angled at 22 degrees, so you can flip out the Kickstand and record meetings and events hands-free. There are stereo speakers and dual microphones tuned for Skype. Both come with support for standard USB port, Windows RT version of Surface has USB 2.0 and the Windows 8 Pro has USB 3.0 support. The feature sheet is inclusive of perimeter venting that helps airflow and Microsoft claims that one will never be able to block it, and microSD card support. There’s also the optional DisplayPort. It will apparently come with built-in support for pen stylus. Microsoft has been tight lipped about what lies beneath all that metal and glass in their Surface tablets, but Nvidia have just confirmed that the Windows RT version of the Surface will indeed be powered by their Tegra processor. Now, they haven’t specified which Tegra SoC exactly, but everything points to Tegra 3.

A quick look at the spec sheet details that have been revealed, so far –

Surface for Windows RT –

  • OS: Windows RT
  • Weight: 676 g
  • Depth: 9.3 mm
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
  • Energized: 31.5 W-h
  • Connectivity: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Productive: Office ‘15’ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
  • Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Configurable: 32GB, 64GB

Surface for Windows 8 Pro –

  • OS: Windows 8 Pro
  • Weight: 903 g
  • Depth: 13.5 mm
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD Display
  • Energized: 42 W-h
  • Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
  • Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Configurable: 64GB, 128GB

What we think
At the event, Microsoft showed off the Surface for Windows RT, which looked refreshing. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro wasn’t on display, and from the spec sheet it can be inferred that it is likely to be thicker and heavier, owing to the chipset. But it is expected to bring on similar features to the table as the Surface for Windows RT. While the tablet is likely to be compared to the iPad, we wonder if Apple’s new iPad commercial coinciding with the launch of the Surface is just a coincidence. We think Microsoft has crafted a well thought device. The detachable keyboard and kickstand, may just be the start of the new hybrid design era. Even if we look back at the Windows 8 tablets launched at Computex, hybrid seemed the buzz word along with Windows 8.

The new Microsoft tablet looks stylish and cool. The software maker plans on offering the complete tablet experience with the Metro UI and the traditional desktop feature in Windows RT and it allows it to be used as a netbook. However, on the spec details, there is a lot of missing information. The battery life, which will play an essential role is still a mystery. Another key aspect missing is the pricing. The Windows RT tablet is expected to be priced between approx. INR 30,569 to  INR 44,490. However, nothing is confirmed yet. Moreover, the Surface for Windows 8 Pro is yet to be seen and there was no sign of the tablet at the unveling. This tablet is going to run on x86 hardware, which means it's likely to be bulkier, more power hungry and more expensive.

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