When Steve Ballmer took the stage at Microsoft's mysterious press event in Hollywood, the bloggers in the audience gasped, but they didn't start to applaud until they saw just what the Surface tablet/PC hybrid he announced could do.
After a long prologue about Microsoft's legacy of launching hardware — from the mouse to the XBOX — Ballmer debuted the tablet designed to work with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system — "its own companion hardware innovation."
What really distinguishes Surface from Apple's iPad is the fact that it has all the computing power of a PC, and with snap-in keyboards and a kick stand, it actually turns into a mini laptop.
It has a 10.6 inch display and is .3 inches thick, and it weighs 1.5 pounds. The real oohs and ahhs came for the keyboards that double as covers, with special sensors to make them as receptive as a regular keyboard.
Ballmer said the device is designed for entertainment — the demo featured a new Netflix application. The benefit of the larger screen means it's not necessary to put movies in a letter box and the kick stand makes it easy to lean back and watch.
Ballmer did not announce specific timing or pricing of the product. The basic Surface tablet will be released at the same time as Windows 8, and with 32 gigs and 64 gigs of memory it will be priced similarly to comparable tablets.
The pro version with 64 gigs and 128 gigs of memory will be released about 3 months after the Windows 8 launch and will be priced in line with high end ultra books.
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