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microsurfaceAfter the build-up of yesterday’s invitation and attendant rumor, today’s Microsoft event promised to be exciting (even if it turned out Barnes & Noble would not actually be involved). And true to form, Microsoft announced…a tablet. A Windows 8 tablet, in fact. Or, indeed, two of them.

The Microsoft Surface will come in a regular version powered by an ARM processor, or a “Pro” version rocking a Core i5 x86 processor with either 64 or 128 gigabytes of storage. Both versions will run Windows 8—the same Windows 8 as your desktop PC, putting it one up on Apple if they can get it to work. Previous versions of Windows haven’t done too well as tablet OSes, but 8 seems to have been designed from the ground up to be both a floor wax and a desert topping. The specs seem rather vague, and there is no mention of price either. Hopefully we can find those things out sometime soon.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Surface, however, is the detachable magnetic cover, which—unlike Apple’s iPad’s magnetic cover—includes a full-sized chiclet keyboard and trackpad built in. While I’m not sure how that would be to type on, I can immediately see the appeal—the keyboard will be at least as good as and possibly better than the on-screen keyboard the iPad has, and will have the side benefit of not blocking half the screen when you use it.

I’m not sure how durable it will be, though—isn’t part of the point of a cover to take the hard knocks so your device doesn’t? How many knocks will that cover take before the keyboard stops working right?

It’s also worth noting that until this afternoon “Microsoft Surface” referred to the table-sized projection monitors using PixelSense technology for touch recognition. It’s still in Wikipedia that way, in fact: “Microsoft Surface” redirects to “Microsoft PixelSense” which is a discussion of the Surface tables, and the new tablet is listed as “Microsoft Surface (tablet)”. Could be a little confusing when you come across discussion from years back of that rather different Microsoft Surface.

Finally, there’s an interesting little footnote on the “About” page that those who don’t look for it might miss: “Works exclusively with apps from the Windows Store.” Is that referring just to the ARM version? (Which would make sense; you’d need specially-compiled apps to work on an ARM platform rather than the more common x86.) Or does it mean both of them? (I wouldn’t think they’d try to lock down a full-fledged PC capable device that way, but who really knows?)

Obligatory e-book mention for relevance: Needless to say, as full-fledged Windows machines, they’ll have ample access to plenty of e-book software. I would imagine that future updates of PC e-reader software like the Kindle or Nook PC apps will be updated and tweaked to use the tablet mode to its fullest potential.

 
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