Microsoft breaks tradition with a Microsoft Surface tablet

Mary Jo Foley

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It's the end of an era. Or maybe the start of a new one.

Microsoft -- a company which traditionally has relied exclusively on its PC partners to provide hardware powered by its Windows operating system -- is trying out a new business model with its Windows on ARM release. Known officially as Windows RT, the coming Windows on ARM operating system is the first full-fledged Windows version to run on ARM Holdings chips.

Microsoft isn't actually manufacturing this new tablet itself -- just as it doesn't actually "make" the Xbox or the now end-of-lifed Zune media player. But it will be putting the Microsoft name on this new ARM-based tablet. And this, many have speculated, will set up Microsoft as a head-to-head competitor with its own PC maker partners.

It's going to be branded the Surface. There are two Surface tablets. One is Windows RT-based and one is Windows 8-based.

Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.

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The specs include:

  • A full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio angled at 22 degrees.
  • 10.6", 16:9 widescreen HD Display.
  • Integrated Kickstand: Built-in kickstand lets users move Surface from active use to passive consumption.
  • Touch Cover: 3 mm pressure-sensitive Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures will come in different colors.