Microsoft rolls out its answer to Apple’s iPad
- Last Updated: 5:45 PM, June 19, 2012
- Posted: 12:51 AM, June 19, 2012
Microsoft jumped into the fast-growing and uber-popular tablet game last night, unveiling its own brand of device, which it called Surface.
The tablet, which will debut later this year, runs on the much-anticipated Windows 8 platform and takes direct aim at the tablet champion — Apple’s iPad.
Weighing in at about the same size and weight as the iPad, the Surface works like a touchscreen tablet with a smart-cover that opens into a keyboard.
It also comes with a built-in kickstand to allow it to stand upright like a regular computer monitor.
At a hastily convened event in Los Angeles, CEO Steve Ballmer did not reveal how much the Surface will cost.
With the Surface, however, Microsoft is doing something it never did in the PC market, developing its own hardware, placing the company in a competition against the same manufacturers that helped make its software ubiquitous in the 1990s.
“What does this mean for the partners? Because this hardware looks great, and Microsoft doesn’t have to pay what the licensing partners have to pay,” said Carolina Milanesi, Gartner researcher.
The Surface runs on two versions of Windows’ latest mobile software, RT and 8.
Ballmer gave a nod to its crucial manufacturing partners, sending a shoutout to Dell, Asus, Acer and others. Then he said the company wanted to give Windows 8 its own seamless hardware innovation.
Apple is the key example of a company in control of its own software and hardware. Also, Google bought Motorola in a hardware play that followed the Apple model.
Google has tried to calm the nerves of manufacturers of Android devices, who don’t want the company to play favorites.
The difference between Google and Microsoft, however, is that Android is licensed for free, while Windows costs about $85 per device, according to some estimates from analysts.
With the Surface, Microsoft doesn’t have to pay its own licensing fees and could undercut its competition, Milanesi said.
Unlike the clear schedules presented at Apple product launches, Microsoft did not say when the Surface would ship.
Ballmer is hoping to get it on shelves in time for the holidays.
The company said the device would be priced competitively with ultrabooks, which can range from $300 to $800. Industry experts expected the Surface to retail for about $699, more than the latest-generation iPad at $499.
Tablet competitors have had no success when they priced their iPad rivals above Apple’s hot-selling device.
Still, Microsoft’s Surface promises full PC-type power in a tablet-sized package. The Surface is Microsoft’s latest push into the mobile market, as the company this year launched with Nokia the Lumia line of phones.
However, the mobile market has been a two-company affair, with Google’s Android and Apple taking the bulk of the audience.
In fact, Google is expected to launch its latest tablet device within weeks, keeping the pressure on Apple and now Microsoft.