Microsoft Announces Surface tablets! Two of them!

Surface for Windows RT

So, I ended up sleeping a few hours past midnight because of Microsoft’s announcement last night (I’m in the GMT+3) but was it worth not sleeping over? Well, if my feelings are to be taken into consideration then it’s an absolute yes! To me the new in-house Microsoft tablets are very drool-worthy with lots of innovations tucked in and it wasn’t even a single tablet but two: one with Windows RT and the other with Windows 8 Pro. My post was rather late but here it is! Promotional video after the break!

Microsoft decided to use the Surface branding for their tablets – something that might confuse those who know about their table-sized Surface computer. They seem to have done something about it by renaming their former Surface computing device into PixelSense which was what they called the finger and object detection technology used in the Samsung SUR40 Surface computer.

Anyway, what’s the difference between Surface for Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro?

The hardware specifications have not been completely revealed yet but here’s what we know so far…

Surface for Windows RT

The CPU is an Nvidia ARM chip. Exactly what it would be is a mystery but we can probably surmise that it would be a Tegra 3+ based chip. The device weighs 676 grams which is slightly heavier compared to the new iPad. Thickness is around 9.3 millimeters – .1 millimeters smaller than the new iPad. The display is described as a 10.6″ ClearType HD capacitive touchpanel but they didn’t elaborate on the screen resolution. My guess is that it’s a 1366 x 768 which is known to be the minimum for Windows 8’s snap multitasking feature. The battery is rated at 31.5Wh but we don’t have an idea how long it can power up the device. Networking is provided by a 2×2 MIMO antenna which they claim is a first in a tablet. The device will have a microSD slot, a USB 2.0 port, and a Micro HDMI port for video output. Surface for Windows RT will be available with 32GB and 64GB storage.  No word on pricing though but Microsoft is iterating that it would be “competitive”. I think the price will be similar to high-end Android tablets or the iPad – I do hope it is within that range. It will be launched around the time Windows 8 is released (fall 2012). It will ship with Microsoft Office Home+Student 2013 RT. Only Metro apps plus maybe a few desktop apps (including Office 2013) would work on this tablet.

Surface for Windows 8 Pro

The heftier Windows 8 Pro version of Surface would contain an Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) CPU which would mean full compatibility with the apps and drivers that we already use in Windows 7. The tablet is heavier than it’s smaller Windows RT sibling – 903 grams – and would be thicker too – 13.5 millimeters. The display is the same size as the formerly described tablet but with a higher density Full HD resolution (that’s 1920 x 1080). This device will have a larger capacity battery (42Wh) but the battery life is unknown. The larger battery is to be expected though as the tablet boasts a much more powerful processor. It will have a microSDXC slot for storage expansion. This tablet also has a faster USB 3.0 port and has a Mini DisplayPort compared to the Micro HDMI port of the Windows RT tablet. Network connectivity is also provided by a 2×2 MIMO antenna. The device seem to be compatible with a pen with a palm block feature. Storage options are 64GB and 128GB. We don’t have any information in pricing other than it being close to the price of current Ultrabooks. It will launch around 3 months after the release of Windows 8. It won’t come with Microsoft Office but it will be compatible with all and every piece of software that works with Windows 7 so that’s a plus!

What’s common?

Both tablets will be able to use the Touch Cover and Type Cover. Both have a VaporMG case with a kickstand and a Gorilla Glass 2 front. They also seem to have a proprietary magnetically latching connector for charging.

I want one but what should I get? Aren’t they both Windows 8 tablets so what’s the difference?

Despite the OS looking alike, Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro are very different beasts. Windows RT is designed for the ARM architecture similar to the processors used in Android and iOS devices. Apps and drivers that work with our Windows 7 devices right now will not work with Windows RT. Windows RT is also known to be limited to Metro apps plus a few desktop apps like Office 2013 RT which is bundled with the OS by the way.

Windows 8 Pro runs under the x86/x64 architecture used by Intel and AMD which means every app and driver that works with our Windows 7 machines should work on it. The x86/x64 version of Windows 8’s legacy app support would be a boon for those who use applications like CorelDraw and Adobe Photoshop.

That said, if you want to keep using your current apps and devices then choosing a tablet with an x86/x64 version of Windows is a no brainer. If you don’t mind having no legacy app support then it’s safe to go the Windows RT route. Of course, you are also not limited to the two tablets that Microsoft will be releasing. Windows 8 in both RT and x86/x64 flavors would be licensed to OEMs so you’ll have a huge freedom of choice when the OEMs start showing off their devices. Until then we should wait patiently.

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