Microsoft’s Tablet ‘Surfaces’ to Battle iPad

When I heard that there was to be a big launch of Windows Surface with Windows 8 I wasn’t surprised.  Windows 8, with its touch centric interface would suit what I had seen of the “surface” in the past.  I was surprised however to consider that windows 8 was designed for something so expensive.  Last time I looked into”surface” (at the BETT show in 2007) it was an amazingly powerful yet incredibly expensive tool.  It was the size of a table and was launched at the same time as SMART revealed there (ever so slightly cheaper) SMART Table.

I put the Surface Keynote on whilst I was cooking dinner and was very surprised (and then excited) to see that the “surface” has evolved… A LOT.  It’s no longer this:

“Microsoft’s new “surface” computer is demonstrated. May 30, 2007: SOURCE:http://www.smh.com.au

 

but this:

The New Microsoft Surface. Launched June 2012. SOURCE:http://www.microsoft.com/surface

 

I’ve been asked to run a lot of courses about iPads over the last few months.  I enjoy doing them, I love getting people to think deeply about what they mean for learning and teaching.  If you’ve attended one of those courses you might also have heard me question why we’ve all jumped on the iPad bandwagon…  There are lots of tablets out there. Many with more features (like USB ports, better video capabilities etc) than the iPad and yet we seem to feel safer purchasing Apple’s product that we do an Andriod device from Asus, Samsung or the many other manufacturers out there.  I don’t own an iPad of my own. I have an iPhone but I haven’t been able to stretch the pennies to its big brother just yet. I  have been saving for one though… but now…. even though I own a Macbook and an iPhone and it would fit nicely into my apple cloud…. I’m beginning to reconsider….  I might just wait for the surface…

What is Surface?

Surface is a tablet device which was designed specifically with Windows 8 in mind.  There will be two versions. One will be released with Windows 8 (later this year) and one 3 months later.  Each one comes with a slightly different Windows 8 Package.  The most basic model comes with a version of Windows 8 specifically designed for tablet devices: Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro.  Windows RT – the cheapest option runs a lot like the current Windows 7 phone system.  It’s the ‘metro app’ system part of Windows 8 without the functionality of the windows desktop that we are more familiar with in Windows 7.  It will give you access to apps held in the metro store in much the same was an iPad without access to a complete operation system… much the same as an iPad. ‘ It will also come with Office bundled in..  That’s right… it’ll be part of the software.  You’ll be able to run your traditional Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc from the device without buying it separately.  With its USB  port you’ll also be able to print from it (of course you could do that wirelessly too but it’s nice to have the option to plug in).  No more having to share to the cloud, head to a computer and print off from there. It also connects directly to your windows live account so you can access your MSN, Hotmail, Windows Live, Windows 365 account (now being offered to all education establishments for FREE) instantly.

What does Windows 8 look like?

If you’ve never seen Windows 8 before then have a look at this video from Nvidia. In they show us the first Windows RT tablet (Not the Surface).  This is an Asus device running the same software that the Surface will.  It’ll give you an idea of what to expect from RT.

How’s it built?  What are the Specs?

In terms of hardware, the Surface RT is the base model. Not all of the specs are out yet but it is expected to have a rear and front camera as well as:

Surface (Windows RT) tablet key specs

  • Windows RT operating system
  • Nvidia ARM CPU
  • 9.3mm thick
  • 676 grams/23.85 ounces
  • 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
  • 31.5 watt hour battery
  • Ports: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro-HD video, 2×2 MIMO antennas
  • Storage options: 32GB and 64GB for Windows RT
  • Front- and rear-facing “HD” cameras
SOURCE: http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/microsoft-surface-rt/4505-3126_7-35332494.html
The Windows 8 Pro version steps up its hardware requirements:

Surface (Windows Pro) tablet key specs

  • Windows 8 operating system
  • Intel third-generation Core i CPU
  • 13.5mm thick
  • 903 grams/31.85 ounces
  • 10.6-inch ClearType “Full HD” Display
  • 42 watt hour battery
  • Ports: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort video
  • Storage options: 64GB and 128GB
  • Front- and rear-facing “HD” cameras
SOURCE: http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/microsoft-surface-rt/4505-3126_7-35332494.html

Windows Pro gives you a great deal more functionality.  It gives you a full version of windows.  It might not be as powerful as your desktop or laptop so, if you want to get into some serious photoshop-ing it won’t like you very much. However, from what I saw in the keynote address (Embedded right at the bottom of this post), you should be able to dock your surface to your PC or laptop and use it’s power to work with them together.  Very handy.

It also loses its built in, part of the deal copy of Office.  There’s a very handy comparison chart of the new operating sytems here if you’re after more detail. If you want to compare it to the iPad have a look here.

 I was really impressed by what I saw. I love the fact that it comes with the accessories we end up buying for our iPads.  It has a built-in stand and its cover has a keyboard built right into it.  It comes in some cool colours (very important) and the fact that it has a USB port that I can use to actually connect devices makes me wonder whether a windows 8 driver for an interactive device could ever be run from your surface. That seems to be a big hurdle for the iPad in my view. The best thing to do, to get yourself as excited as I am, is to watch the keynote for yourself.  It’s just below 🙂

I’m going to wait until Christmas and see what Santa can bring me.  I guess it will depend on how much it costs!  He never did manage to afford my iPad 😉

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