By Ben Bowers
on 6.19.12
Photo by Microsoft

It was no secret that Microsoft intended to make their new crown jewel Windows 8 operating system equally capable on both desktops as well as their eventual potential replacements — tablets. Few predicted, though, that the house that Bill built would cross the dangerous line from software Czar to hardware vendor with a Microsoft branded slate. But in an era where Apple and Google have both proven the potency of a one-two hardware and software punch, Steve Ballmer and co. have now decided to take off the gloves with the announcement of two new Surface tablets — which, according to Redmond, aren’t supposed to be confused for the company’s older Surface touchscreen technology.

To learn more keep reading after the break.

The Surface for Windows RT tablet is the smaller of the pair and seems aimed at the traditional tablet market. Size-wise, the all magnesium “VaporMg” encased RT is just 9.3mm thick, features a 10.6-inch Gorilla Glass 2 HD display (1366 x 768), an integrated rear kick stand and weighs just under 1.3 pounds. On top of either 32 or 64GB of internal storage, an HDMI, microSD and dual USB 2.0 ports round out the unit’s connectivity suite. Naturally given its ARM internals, this device will run the ARM-optimized version of Windows 8 as well as “Metrofied” versions of popular apps such as Netflix. Office Home & Student apps will also be included as a productivity bonus. Currently, release dates and pricing are still unknown, although Microsoft suggests costs will be on par with the rest of the ARM tablet competition and arrive during Windows 8′s official release this fall.

The Surface for Windows 8 Pro version is more like an Ultrabook in tablet clothing aimed squarely at defecting laptop users. It looks quite similar to the RT, but the Pro boasts notable internal hardware upgrades besides running a full fledged OS including, a full 1080p Gorilla Glass 2 10.6-inch display, a larger 42 w-h battery, an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, two USB 3.0 ports, and internal storage capacities of either 64 or 128GB. On the downside, those beefier guts make the Pro model roughly 4mm thicker, and 0.6 lb heavier than the RT. Microsoft is equally coy on pricing and release dates, but the pro model will apparently appear a few months after the RT launches.

While both offerings are intriguing all on their own, their companion Touch and Type Cover accessories almost steal the show. Like other tablet shields you may have seen around, both are designed to attach magnetically to the device for screen protection. However, the 3mm thick Touch Cover includes a full QWERTY pressure sensitive touch press keyboard and touchpad. The bigger Type Cover adds some girth and weight in exchange for a traditional keyboard with plastic, separated keys, in addition to the touchpad. Both can also distinguish hand rests vs. actual typing to mitigate typos, and include a bonus feature that automagically coordinates the color of the Windows 8 background with the color of the cover for pure matching bliss.

Together, the Surface line is a bold and innovative move from the sleeping tech giant that we’re certainly eager to learn more about. In a market filled with copycats, Surface is a fresh injection of creativity that consumers have desperately needed. Check out Microsoft’s first cool teaser video after the break, and try to ignore the Inception horn tactic rearing its imitated head yet again.

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