Microsoft introduces Surface: a tablet for the next Windows

The company responsible for the most used operating system on the planet hasn’t exactly had the best of luck with tablets, but it’s trying to change that, with Microsoft announcing a new slate designed to bring the fight to Apple.

Announced this week, Microsoft has taken the cover off a new product aimed at bringing the next generation of Windows with you where ever you go, with a tablet called “Surface”. Coincidentally, it’s also the second time Microsoft has brought a product named this to market, previously making touchscreen tables for businesses under the name “Microsoft Surface”.

The specs for the Surface tablet are interesting, with two tablets coming from Microsoft. Both will feature Windows 8, but there will be two distinct versions.

Expected to be the less expensive of the two, the Windows RT model will measure 9.3mm thin, weigh 676 grams, and feature a 10.6 ClearType HD display with roughly 138ppi. Technically speaking, that screen is just a fraction better than the one offered on the old iPad models.

Windows RT is a specific version of the Windows platform designed to run on ARM chips, the same type of processor commonly used in tablets and smartphones.

Storage options will come in 32 and 64GB, and customers will find a microSD expansion slot, as well as a USB 2.0 port, two cameras, a video out port, and a magnesium casing.

The second model will support a full version of Windows 8 Professional, and will be noticeably thicker and heavier, increasing the thickness to 13.5mm and the weight to just under a kilogram. The screen will be pushed to a Full HD 1080p screen, supporting 207ppi, a few notches lower than that of Apple’s Retina-grade third-generation iPad.

Unlike the Windows RT model, this one will run on an Intel processor, though which one we don’t quite know yet.

Ports will also be included, updating the microSD to the faster and more storage capable microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort for video out, and adding a pen to the mix. Storage is increased as well, supporting both 64 and 128GB sizes with the same magnesium case included.

To its credit, Microsoft has done some interesting things with the design of the Surface tablet, integrating a kickstand in the casing, and building a multitouch keyboard and touchpad in the cover.

In a way, you get the feeling that Microsoft isn’t just trying to corner the market on skins and covers for its own tablet, but also find a way to drive Intel’s upcoming touch-enabled Ultrabooks out of the market.

The catch in all of this will be the price and availability, both of which weren’t announced beyond Microsoft saying that it will be similar to current tablets and Ultrabooks.