Many people including me wouldn’t know that when the current CEO, Steve Ballmer, joined Microsoft, the best selling product was a hardware called SoftCard. Microsoft is known by most people as a software company.
However, yesterday, Microsoft just looked totally different in one of the most mysterious and hyped up Microsoft announcement (full video here). It’s not easy to introduce something that will not be available for months and still make many people excited. Yes, I am talking about the Surface, Microsoft- branded tablet. It looks just like a normal tablet, but what sets it apart is how much detail and effort Microsoft put into this product. Microsoft realizes now that if they want Windows 8 to be successful they can’t just rely on good ole OEMs. And it does show what tight integration and craftsmanship can produce.
Here are some important keys from the event:
VaporMg: (pronounce Vapor-Mag) which is a process of molding metal (i.e., magnesium) and deposit particles to create very thin and light but strong parts. This process gives Surface a thin and light casing including the integrated Kickstand that is thinner than a typical credit card.
Touch and Type Cover : I was impressed with iPad cover which could be used as a stand (Steve Jobs presentation was also help), but the idea of embedded the keyboard and trackpad to the 3 mm thin cover just blew me away. The simple and elegant seems to be what make people most excited as people applauded when Steven Sinofsky introduced it. Touch Cover is a capacitive touch, but it also pressure sensitive, which together sense keystrokes as gesture and should enable fast touch typing. It also helps when it comes with multiple colors!
By the way, Microsoft also introduces black Type Cover which has the moving keys while the thinner Touch Cover is capacitive touch. However, nobody should expect the keyboards will be comparable to real keyboard like my favorite Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, but this is still supposed to be twice as fast comparing to typing on the glass when using on-screen keyboard.
Touch and Digital-ink Digitizers: The Windows 8 Pro version (Core i5 Ivy Bridge model) will come with two digitizers, one for touch, and one for digital-ink. A provided stylus looks just like a normal ballpoint pen. The tablet also has Palm Block technology which will disable the touch digitizer when the stylus is close to the screen. This way, the touch action won’t be registered accidentally when the stylus is being used. I think this is also something that other tablets do not have.
Others: The other interesting things include the back camera that is angled at 22 degree when you use with the Kickstand which also shows how much attention Microsoft put into the Surface PC. Perimeter Venting design also makes sure that no matter how people hold the Surface, they won’t cover the air venting. I think this is for Windows 8 Pro version only.
The Surface is also the first to include a high performance 2×2 MIMO antenna.
Another thing that makes me happy is how background color for Windows 8 will change, when it is attached to the Touch Cover, to match the Touch Cover color. People might think this is just a small gimmick, but for me, this small attention in detail makes me love the device much better.
Well, the only issue for me is nobody knows when it will be available and how much it will cost. Steven Sinofsky mentions that the Windows RT version should be available the same time Windows 8 is available which can be 2-4 months away. However, the most disappointing news was that the Windows 8 Pro version would be available three months later.
Anyway, this should be a day-one buy for me unless the partners like Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, or even Vizio could come up with something better which I doubt it. If other OEMs can’t provide better devices, please do not blame Microsoft. As a consumer, I want the best Windows 8 tablet available, and my money will follow. Microsoft is raising the bar and challenging all partners to take their games to the next level!