Microsoft unveils 'Surface,' iPad competitor



Associated Press

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 19 at 3:05 AM

Is Microsoft Surface a worthy iPad competitor?

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft has unveiled Surface, a tablet computer to compete with Apple's iPad.

CEO Steve Ballmer was on hand to announce the tablet, calling it part of a "whole new family of devices" the company is developing.

The 9.3 millimeter thick tablet comes with a kickstand to hold it upright and keyboard that is part of the device's cover. It weighs under 1.5 pounds. It has a 10.6-inch "ClearType HD" display that mimics the size of the iPad's, but is wider, in the style of a high definition television.

Unlike the iPad, the Surface also comes equipped with a standard USB port and a slot that can be used to expand the built-in memory. Surface will be powered by a new Windows-centric operating system.

Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft's Windows division, called the device a "tablet that's a great PC — a PC that's a great tablet."

Microsoft also unveiled a slightly thicker and heavier Surface tablet using the Windows 8 Pro operating system and an Intel processor.

About pricing, Microsoft would only say these devices would be "competitive." The first will be released when Windows 8 comes out, which is expected to be some time this summer.

Recent figures show that Apple's iPad had a 58 percent share of the tablet market. Most of the rest are devices made by a variety of manufacturers, including Samsung, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which utilize Google's Android operating system.

Microsoft has been making software for tablets since 2002, when it shipped the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Many big PC makers produced tablets that ran the software, but they were never big sellers. The tablets were based on PC technology, and were heavy, with short battery lives.

Microsoft didn't say how long the Surface would last on battery power.

Microsoft's decision to make its own tablet is a departure from the software maker's strategy the personal computer market. With PCs, Microsoft was content to leave the design and marketing of the hardware to other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo and Acer, that licensed the Windows operating system and other software applications.

The more hands-on approach with its tablet indicates that Microsoft either lacks confidence in the ability of its PC partners to design compelling alternatives to Apple's iPad or it believes it needs more control to ensure Windows plays a major role in the increasingly important mobile computing market.

Whatever Microsoft's motives, the company's tablet plans risk alienating some of its longtime partners in the PC industry's Walt Zwirko contributed to this report.