Microsoft Corp. (MSFT: Quote) Monday unveiled its Windows-based tablet "Surface" in a bid to take on Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) hugely successful iPad. At a late evening event in Hollywood, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer showcased Surface tablet that blends its popular Windows software with premium hardware.
Microsoft announced two versions of its Surface tablet: the RT version that will only run Windows 8 apps, and the Pro version that will run all Windows apps.
The RT version is 9.3 mm thin and weighs 676 grams, while the Pro version is 13.5 mm thin and weighs 903 grams. The RT version will run on an ARM processor, while the Pro version will be equipped with that of Intel's. There are commonalities too, with both versions having full-sized USB port, Magnesium casing, a 10.6 optical display, and an Integrated Kickstand.
Microsoft did not disclose the price for Surface, but said it will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. Surface for Windows RT will be released with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later.
Microsoft will now have its own computer hardware for the first time in its scintillating history as a software maker. It has taken cue from Apple's late founder and CEO Steve Jobs who emphasized the need for technology companies to embrace both hardware and software to stay competitive, something which Apple has accomplished with great aplomb.
Microsoft has a strong grip on the PC operating system market, whereby it earns licensing fees from hardware partners installing Windows operating system on their PCs. However, the iPad along with other tablets and smartphones has cut into sales of low-end Windows, as these devices provide basic Internet and computing functions. It is reported that sales of tablets are likely to surpass 180 million in 2013.
With its foray into the tablet market, Microsoft has exhibited no inhibition in taking on the Apple juggernaut that has rattled other players in the tech industry. This also means Microsoft is pitting itself against close hardware partners like Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Samsung Electronics, and others, whose PCs feature Windows software.
There had been reports and speculations for quite some time about Microsoft's imminent plunge into the tablet market. The company in April made a $300 million investment for a 17.6 percent stake in a newly formed unit of bookstore chain Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS). Barnes & Noble is already in the tablet market since early November 2011 after unveiling the Nook Tablet, seen as a rival the iPad as well as Amazon's (AMZN) tablet Kindle Fire.
Nonetheless, the tablet launch will be keenly tracked given that Microsoft has not had much success with its other hardware products such as Zune, a music player to rival iPod, and the Kin, a youth-oriented mobile phone. Its video game console X Box 360, however, has found success after years of losses and manufacturing problems.
Google too has been reported to evince keen interest in making its own tablets. The intent is seen and speculated at the recently completed $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a maker of Android smartphones and tablets.
MSFT closed Monday at $29.84, down $0.18 or 0.60%, on a volume of over 54 million shares on the Nasdaq. In the past year, the stock has traded in a range $23.79 - $32.95.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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