Thursday, June 21, 2012

Smart keyboard is highlight of Microsoft's Surface tablet

Steve Jobs used to say that the iPhone and iPad had ushered in a "post-PC world". Now, with the announcement of new line of tablets running the latest version of its Windows operating system, it seems that Microsoft agrees.
Revealed last night in Los Angeles, the Surface tablet comes in two flavours: a high-end machine with Windows 8, capable of running both traditional PC software and smartphone-style apps and a low-powered one running Windows RT, a cut-down version of the new operating system that only supports apps.
Surprisingly, Microsoft's real innovation is its answer to Apple's Smart Cover. While the iPad's cover just acts as a stand and switches the screen on and off when you close it, Microsoft's two covers turn the Surface tablet into something resembling an ultra-thin laptop.
The Touch Cover closely resembles the Smart Cover, but also offers a full keyboard and touchpad. Microsoft says it "senses keystrokes as gestures", whatever that means, but it should be more comfortable than typing directly on a glass touchscreen.

Those looking for something a little more substantial can go for the Type Cover, a proper keyboard with depressible keys, much as you would find on an ordinary laptop. Both Surface models come with a kickstand, allowing you to prop the tablet up and use a keyboard cover just like you would a laptop.
The Surface seems designed to take on almost every portable computer currently on the market, as it allows Microsoft to go up against both the iPad and the MacBook, along with other tablets and laptops. Gaming apps on the tablet also give the company a portable rival to Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's PlayStation Vita, where it was previously limited to competing on home consoles with its Xbox, and provides a perfect venue for its SmartGlass second screen concept.
Spoiling for a fight comes at a cost though. Traditional computer manufacturers such as Dell or HP, who normally produce Windows machines, are unlikely to be happy about Microsoft stepping on their toes by coming out with its own hardware. It also remains to be seen how consumers will take to Windows 8, an oddly mashed-up operating system that tries to merge both traditional computing and the new post-PC world.
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