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back to article Microsoft takes on tablets with keyboard-equipped Surface

In one of its most-hyped-up announcements of recent years, Microsoft has entered the tablet market with the Surface, a 10.6 inch table running Windows 8 on Intel and ARM platforms. At the launch event in Los Angeles, CEO Steve Ballmer said that Microsoft could offer something "unique" in that it can do both the hardware and the …

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Holmes

"[...] housing a multitouch keyboard [...]"

When have keyboards ever *not* been "multitouch"?

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Most early keyboards were not "multitouch"

I remember when "n" key roll-over was only on high end keyboards.

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kobe keypunch machines

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Flame

While I'm being pedantic, try hitting multiple keys at the same time on your keyboard.

Hold 3, 4 or 5 keys down and see what happens. It can get quite interesting.

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typewriters

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Most typewriters had a shift key.

Multitouch doesn't mean mashing - it is always limited to sane inputs.

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WTF?

Everything for everybody?

The concept sounds like MS wants to offer everything to everybody. Can't they see that their competitors' success is built on the exact opposite approach? Apple succeeded by creating specialized devices that do exactly what the user expects (iPhone: phone, internet, music, games; iPad: internet, games, movies; ...). So now they try to build the one system do it all -- and their tablets, notebooks, and desktop computers will end up doing everything awkwardly.

I expect MS Office to save the day, simply because we are all used to it. But it won't ever be cool.

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Re: Everything for everybody?

"So now they try to build the one system do it all -- and their tablets, notebooks, and desktop computers will end up doing everything awkwardly"

Ah, but that's the thing. This looks like it might end up doing everything reasonably well. The ARM version is only a sliver heavier than the iPad3 but comes with a slim cover that is a keyboard and has a stand. (Keyboard is detachable). The baked in keyboard alone is going to make a huge difference to many. Lots of people who use a laptop use it for barely more than browsing, Word and emails. This can do that as well as having the tablet form factor that is convenient for sofa-surfing. Don't know how desktops got in your list above though as this isn't nor tries to be, a desktop substitute. I suppose the posher Intel one can be if you have light use, as it has Displaly Port output.

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Joke

"always limited to sane inputs"

You've clearly not read much marketing material

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Meh

My old Casio VL-Tone wasn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Challenge Accepted!

aqswdegftrhjyukio

Hooray for n-Key Rollover! I did have to jab the keyboard with a book. Even 'gaming' keyboards, mostly USB ones, are shoddy in the multiple key department. Get yourself a nice mechanical keyboard, via PS2!

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Paris Hilton

Re: "try hitting multiple keys at the same time"

Erm, you mean like CTRL-ALT-DEL?

Is this "stupid week", or something?

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> When have keyboards ever *not* been "multitouch"?

On the first Tubeway Army album?

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Re: "multitouch"

It's not multi-touch, it's mul-tit-ouch...

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Coat

BAU for MS then?

So they have announced something that may or may not ship in 'n' months without mentioning prices.

So what is new then?

This is aimed squarely at the Ultrabook and high end Android tablet makers. The (IMHO) underlying message they are trying to send out is

'Give up the (ultrabook/tablet) business that you are currently in right now. We (microsoft) are coming and we are going to smash your business to smithereens so get out while you can.

FUD for tea anyone?

Seriously, it remains to be seen if MS can put out something that is price competetive with models already shipping or that will ship before their bit of 'tat' reaches the market. Look at the difficulty many Android device makers are having to compete with the iPad on price. Can MS with no record in this area (the X-box has no screen so it does not count) get enough hardware put together at a realistic price AND get it to market in time for Christmas?

If enough existing Ultrabook makers have enough 'bottle' to stick it out then I have a feeling that MS is going to come unstuck. I'm will to bet (A small donation to charity) that MS needs some existing makers to get cold feet and cancel production so they can get space for their device to be made.

Scare tactics pure and simple.

If I recall when Apple announcd the iPad they gave a date for release in most big markets along with a price. They were confident enough in their business model to do that. I don't see MS having that confidence.

Mines the one with a pad of paper and a pencil in the pocket.

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Re: BAU for MS then?

"""We (microsoft) are coming and we are going to smash your business to smithereens"""

It is unlikely that either the Windows 8 or the RT will affect iPad at all. The keyboard is there because most Windows applications (non-Metro) will _require_ keyboard and (mouse substitute) trackpad. This means that they will not work well as laptops (on lap). They will not work well without the keyboard. They need to be on a desk.

The business that they will smash is the MS OEMs. Those intending to build Windows 8 or RT tablets will now give up. HP's WebOS has already been smashed, probably by MS threatening to remove discounts on all Microsoft products.

It is unlikely that these will smash Android tablets. The reason for buying Windows is to run Windows programs. RT won't do that so there is no reason to not just buy Android. x86 will be much more expensive (Ultrabook prices) but will have small 10" screen. Just like netbooks people will prefer a smallish (15") full facility laptop for much less money.

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Stop

Re: BAU for MS then?

They didn't announce the price and they didn't announce the battery life either.

Cynical El Reg readers may wonder why.

Also, RT includes Office pre-installed (i.e. "for free") whereas the Pro version does not and one has to purchase an Office licence in addition -- not a surprise but adds to the cost of "full version".

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Re: BAU for MS then?

While I didn't think MS could produce a good tablet (someone should shoot balmer, the real lock-in, is office, not windows, thats why Google docs is so dangerous), i did expect them to learn from the x-box/zoon (later versions) products. This is a joke and in bad taste.

FUD, yeah got to agree with you, problem for MS is that when they say they will do something it now creates FUD about what they will do. They really need someone to get a clue and stop reacting and start acting. In the 90's they were killers, now it seems they have retired to Spain to play golf and die slowly.

Is anyone scared of MS anymore, looks to me like everyone is looking at which pound of flesh they can take. Maybe I'm wrong but when I look at MS, I can't help but think of the IBM PC and what that did to IBM.

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Re: BAU for MS then?

> RT includes Office pre-installed (i.e. "for free")

Microsoft say that it includes "Office RT Preview".

We don't know whether 'Preview' is just an early version that will be upgraded 'for free' or whether it is a 'trial' version that will expire and require to buy a real version.

We also don't know what feature downgrades that 'Office RT' has when compared to 'Office'.

What we do know is that the changes of getting Firefox, OpenOffice, etc is approx. nil.

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xyz

Re: BAU for MS then?

Have you ever seen someone trying to type a document on an iPad....?

It's hilarious.

I once spent 5 minutes watching one of those coffee shop window puppies with his iPad propped against the window copying text from his iPhone to his iPad using his 2 middle fingers. No, don't ask me why he was doing it, it'll be something to do with the average iQ of the product line purchasers, but it was very, very, very funny.

In answer to the general thrust of the above, iWhatevers are for fart around posers, Android still falls over all over the place, so the only thing you can really trust to do the business on your lap is MS.

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Linux

Re: BAU for MS then?

It's more likely to spur Google to go the rest of the way in letting Android be a full useful operating system able to run standard Linux application like LibreOffice. Otherwise, that is the ugliest color of blue I have ever seen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BAU for MS then?

"so the only thing you can really trust to do the business on your lap is MS."

Yeah? and who picks up the dry cleaner's bills when they do, eh?

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Re: BAU for MS then?

"What we do know is that the changes of getting Firefox, OpenOffice, etc is approx. nil."

Firstly, what you are (slightly innacurately) referring to is specific to Windows on ARM because of the restricted library access. Secondly, Firefox, Open Office "etc" can be written for Windows RT. Chrome is currently being prepped for its first release on Windows 8. What Mozilla are complaining about is that they are being given the same level of access as every other third party developer. They want the same level of access to the OS that Microsoft themselves have. But this is pretty much impossible. Mozilla want access to, e.g. spawn new processes at will, direct memory management rather than under the OS restrictions. These are the sorts of things that if thrown open to all third party developers can turn the platform from something robust, secure and efficient, to a grinding, crashing mess. Windows RT is not regular Windows 8. It is a low-power OS customized for the mobile device it is deployed on. Mozilla want a level of access that is better than other third party developers. Why should they? Because they have a bigger brand name? MS has access because their software is tightly integrated into the OS and must be. GUIs and browsers are merging. We've even seen an OS that *is* a browser (Chrome OS). In Windows 8, applications can and will be actually created in HTML and Javascript. Are you seriously suggesting that these should not be compiled, but processed by a browser application each time they are run? Because that's the only other option to resolve a different level of access between MS core software such as IE10, and third party applications from outside parties. You either demand that MS create an intentionally crippled platform, limited in ways that none of their rivals bother to limit themselves, or you throw open the doors to third party developers to run riot. AND this is just Windows RT. Not Windows 8.

I know the above is longer and more complicated than "MS blocks Firefox", but it's a Hell of a lot more accurate. Mozilla are free to deploy Firefox on Windows RT, and I bet you that they will. Google are with Chrome. But what they don't get is treated any different than any other Third Party developer. Browser and OS are merging on WinRT. That has implications for security and performance that can't be resolved with a simple pat answer like let everyone do what they want.

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Meh

Re: BAU for MS then?

"The reason for buying Windows is to run Windows programs."

What's the justification for buying Android? A deep and abiding love of FOSS*? Around here, possibly. Everywhere else in the Universe, probably not. A pants-tightening slavish love of Google? No, or there'd be a market for Chromebooks.

It's cheap and doesn't crash as much as the last version? Yeah. Now we're getting somewhere.

If MS deliver an experience that's price-comparable and doesn't crash at all (you can hate on WP7 all you like but it's rock-solid stable, as a controlled hardware/software platform should be) then the criteria change.

At that point, it's not about "is it cheaper" but about "does it work with my other stuff".

Your other stuff may be 100% Android/linux but you have to admit that's an edge case. And Android tablets and phones do not integrate all that well.

That sort of leaves the field there for the taking, barring only Apple Cultists who will always buy Apple anyway.

*For highly flexible values of FOSS

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BAU for MS then?

@xyz: "...the only thing you can really trust to do the business on your lap is MS."

I heard the same thing when all they had was MS-DOS - a CLI was the *only* way to do business, and this GUI crap was for posers. If MS are so hot on business, why have they just kicked most business users in the teeth by metro-fying everything in Windows 8?

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Re: BAU for MS then?

Out of interest - why do you dismiss Macbooks (i.e. non-tablet portable Macs)?

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Re: BAU for MS then?

MS are now going to be punting more OSes than Android - Win RT, Win 8, WinPhone 7, Windows 7 vs Android 2, 3, 4.

Apple have 2 OSes, but at least they have different names so you know which is which (ios for primarily data consumption devices), OSX (for primarily data creation devices) .

At least you know what devices android is aimed at (portable data consumption devices).

So why have Win RT vs Winphone 7 vs Win 8? Or why make Win 8 the broken version of Win 7? They have blurred the lines between devices and yet seem to have divided them even further. Windows 7 still feels fresh and rock solid so its going to be as hard to displace as XP. MS have missed the trick of making the hardware platform irrelevant and instead have created their own pointless fragmentation. The only upside is that their new tablet looks like a nice piece of kit.

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Re: BAU for MS then?

Have you ever seen someone trying to type a document on an iPad....?

yes, and it's pretty easy if you're not completely cackhanded. You just have to keep the heels of your palms off the screen or the cursor jumps unexpectedly - pretty shallow learning curve.

As to the person copying stuff from iPhone to iPad - there may have been a good reason - or maybe they were dumb. Dumb people also own laptops, windows OS, Nokia phones, washing machines and spectacles. Lesson in logic: Even if all dumb people own iPads that doesn't mean all iPad owners are dumb.

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Re: BAU for MS then?

Oh, last I heard Office came with RT. If now you only get "Office Preview" then it looks like one will have to download Office Metro edition from the Microsoft Store.

I am sure that's a commercial decision, Office division could not have RT tablets cannibalising their margins.

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Facepalm

Re: BAU for MS then?

HAHA

3 thumbs down from people who a) won't be told how easy an iPad is to type on and who b) need a lesson in very basic logic. Not programmers then.

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Windows

I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't launched a touch-screen based system called Surface before. Oh, wait.

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Microsoft has worked hard to up the hype this launch.

So like the Zune launch.

The Intel pad should have enough power to run the squished flat Win8 but will cost too much to be anything but an executive toy.

The Arm pad might have a chance if it's significantly cheaper then the iPad and they can get people to develop for it (both a big if I think).

Don't Apple have the patent on doing both the software and hardware on a mobile device? :P

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Microsoft has worked hard to up the hype this launch.

The Zune was launch was for North America only unlike the Xbox, IMO a strategy that had fail written all over it.

I don't know if the same goes for Surface. Sounds unlikely.

As you say, price is key Arm and x86 but its poinless speculation for now.

Likely Metro capable devices will overtake iPad by next Summer so can expect a few developers will target the platform.

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Unhappy

ARMvsIntel Win 8

I foresee many people returning their Arm based Windows RT tablets when they finally work out they can't run windows apps. The i5 version will no doubt be too bulky and heavy to be successfully used as a consumer tablet - but I'm sure it will find a niche in industries.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Microsoft has worked hard to up the hype this launch.

"...Metro capable devices will overtake iPad by next Summer..."

Seriously? Pull my finger.

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FAIL

Re: "...Metro capable devices will overtake iPad by next Summer..."

Hardly comparing like with like here. "Metro capable devices" include phones, laptops, desktops and any Surface tablets that they may manage to shift. "...iPad" ignores the bulk of the iOS base, iPhones.

And the bulk of iOS users like iOS, whereas the current consensus is that the bulk of Metro users by next summer (desktop/laptop users) will hate it, as it just gets in the way of them using "traditional" Windows applications.

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Re: Microsoft has worked hard to up the hype this launch.

"the devices brought its software to the surface for users"

I threw up a little

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JDX
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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

>>I foresee many people returning their Arm based Windows RT tablets when they finally work out they can't run windows apps

Those would be the same people who return iPads because they won't run Mac software?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

This is being marketed as full blown Windows. So you would expect backward compatibility, it's what Microsoft are famous for.

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FAIL

Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

Or alternatively when they find that they can't replace Win RT with another OS.

Due to the stipulation that MS have made so that any ARM based machine is irrevocably locked to RT means that when people find that the Surface does not do what they want they will be stuffed.

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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

I would think anyone likely to install an alternate OS (i.e. Linux) is smart enough to know about Secure Boot.

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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

iPad runs iOS 5

Mac runs Mac OSX

ARM-based tablets runs Windows 8 RT

Intel-based tablets runs Windows 8 Pro

You see the difference? - because I'm pretty sure that the consumer can see the difference between "iOS 5" and "Mac OSX", but I fear that the difference between "Windows 8 RT" and "Windows 8 Pro" is a lot less significant, especially considering that there is a number of other Windows 8 versions that will run all Windows applications just fine.

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Re: Microsoft has worked hard to up the hype this launch.

"Likely Metro capable devices will overtake iPad by next Summer"

Only if your counting all the current Windows computers that could have Win8 installed.

If your thinking tablets then you better cut back on what ever it is your smoking.

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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

No the same people who returned netbooks with Linux because they would not run Windows.

At least that's what all the MS people were saying happened.

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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

>>I foresee many people returning their Arm based Windows RT tablets when they finally work out they can't run windows apps

Those would be the same people who return iPads because they won't run Mac software?

I know I'm taking a huge chance weighing in here, being a long-time (since '85) Mac user, but...

...when the iPad was first rolled out, I immediately decided I didn't want one because the damn' thing wouldn't even run OSX. As a designer and illustrator, one of my big dreams was of a Mac tablet that could take stylus input -- specifically, by drawing directly on the pad -- so I could draw directly into Photoshop or Illustrator. You can imagine my disappointment when, instead of an OSX-based tablet, Apple rolled out that goddamn' IOS hipster toy.

I suppose a really good pressure-sensitive tablet connected to my minitower or iBook would work just as well, but an OSX tablet would've been perfection. Instead, all Apple has to offer me is... bah!

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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

Surface will be branded as running Windows 8. iPads are not branded as running OS X, neither is the one kind of iPad that will run desktop apps, and another that won't.

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Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

>one of my big dreams was of a Mac tablet that could take stylus input

I've commented before that the iPad does seem to have missed a few tricks... such as taking charge all the Photoshop tool palettes and leaving your Mac's monitor with the workspace. One would have assumed that such tricks would be easier for Apple to accomplish than anyone else, by virtue of its having control of all the software and hardware.

The reason they haven't is that they don't need to; the iPad is already selling very nicely.

Ho hum.

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Devil

Re: Microsoft has worked hard to up the hype this launch.

I've not seen it said, but Apple has patents on the magnet cover, stand and power switch. There will be suits.

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Holmes

Re: ARMvsIntel Win 8

Correct. They sell as many iPads as they can make, to huge profit margins. To say the iPad needs fixed in some way is just retarded.

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