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Perhaps unwilling to tread the same path that search giant Google has walked with Android tablets, Microsoft held an event on Monday to show off a pair of its own Surface tablets, available in Windows RT consumer and Windows 8 Pro editions. When can you actually buy one? Beats us.
Microsoft has announced Surface, its latest stab at creating a Windows-based tablet. The difference with this slate is that Microsoft will actually be manufacturing the product, essentially slitting the throats of its partner OEMs before Windows 8 even ships, despite CEO Steve Ballmer's assurance that Surface is intended to "prime the pump" for Windows 8 tablet makers.
"From touch to type, office to living room, from your screen to the big screen, you can see more, share more, and do more with Surface," Microsoft's Surface website teases. "Create, collaborate, and get stuff done with Office. Explore your world with fast, fluid Windows 8 apps. Discover new music, movies, and games in the Windows Store."
Microsoft Surface is actually a pair of thin, light 10.6-inch tablets aimed at different markets. The most obvious iPad competitor is the base model, available in either 32GB or 64GB versions with an ARM processor running Windows RT, the company's tablet-friendly variation of Windows 8. The 9.3mm thin Surface weighs only 676 grams and comes standard with micro-SD and full-sized USB 2.0 ports.
On the pro side, the second tablet is a bit thicker at 13.5mm with a bit more heft at 903 grams, available in 64GB or 128GB and adding micro-SDXC, USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort to the mix. The beefier version is powered by Intel processors and runs Windows 8 Pro, the version capable of also running traditional Windows applications.
Microsoft is also taking a cue from Apple by offering a Touch Cover that magnetically attaches to the Surface and is capable of folding into a stand, with one very big difference: It also doubles as both keyboard and trackpad.
Sadly, Microsoft left the two biggest factoids off the table on Monday: When Surface will be available and how much it will cost. The consumer version is expected to fall in line with pricing for the iPad and its Android-based competitors, while the pro model will presumably go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Air and Ultrabooks closer to the $1000 range.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter