Microsoft announces TWO own-brand Windows 8 ‘Microsoft Surface’ tablets

Microsoft have made it clear during development of the next version of their popular Windows operating system, Windows 8, that the company is looking to expand beyond the traditional PC market and offer "one system for any device", including Tablet computers and phones. To this extent, Windows 8 is being developed in two distinct flavours and a number of sub-flavours – as well as the traditional Windows builds PC users will be long familiar with, Microsoft are also developing Windows 8 RT (short for Runtime), which is a version of Windows geared specifically towards ARM-powered devices (a first for the company) and designed to give a more mobile-centric feel, with focus on an App Store and iPad-like functionality.

Naturally, many people expected Microsoft would announce they had been working on their OWN tablet device to sell at the time of Windows 8's launch in order to give this new system a fit-for-purpose home – and on a mystery press conference by Microsoft, held in Los Angeles, these suspicions were confirmed correct. However, the company surprised everyone by revealing that there will actually be TWO tablets, one for each Windows experience.

CEO Steve Ballmer revealed the two variants of Microsoft tablets, dubbing them 'Microsoft Surface' tablets. Surface for Windows RT will be the entry-level version, released on or around Windows 8's launch. Powered by an ARM-based chip produced by NVIDIA, this will run the RT version of Windows 8 and is intended as more of an iPad competitor. It comes with a 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display and a 31.5 W-h battery and there is a choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of storage on board. As for expansion, you'll get one each of HDMI, microSD and USB connectivity – although interestingly, it supports only USB 2.0.

The real eye candy is expected to be released around 90 days after Windows 8's launch according to Microsoft's own press release, and is known as Windows 8 Pro. Unlike the RT, Windows 8 Pro is Intel-based and intended to be a full-blown desktop Windows experience like you'd get on a traditional computer, but within the smaller and sleeker form factor of a tablet. The Windows 8 Pro tablet packs a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display with Gorilla Glass, USB 3.0, a 42 W-h battery, and a choice of either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage; with an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor powering it.

Both tablets will come with an extra dubbed the "Touch Cover". Intended to be used as a cover for the tablet's screens when not in use and as a work surface when in use, the Touch Covers feature a wireless keyboard and trackpad, which when connected to the tablet via a magnetic clip allow the tablet to be used in a style more akin to the traditional laptop. Only 3mm thick, the Touch Covers contain "unique pressure-sensitive technology" which allow them to "sense keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard"; and will be available in a variety of colours. The tablets also come with an integrated kickstand to help you stand them up vertically on surfaces; and dual wi-fi antennae for wireless connectivity.

With the announcement of these two new tablets Microsoft expects to give iPad and the Android tablets a run for their money. The fact that these tablets run Windows is a huge advantage, if leveraged properly by Microsoft, over rival competition because of the ability to create a harmonious ecosystem with our traditional computers – and they certainly do appear an exciting prospect for both users and developers. However, it is really up to the future to decide whether the Microsoft tablets will live on or die out.

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