Microsoft ’Surface’ tablet runs Windows 8 and offers touch and gesture recognition.
CEO Steve Ballmer launched the device at a “mystery event” in California today and said it would act as the head of a “whole new family of Microsoft computing devices”.
“If you use your PC to design and create things, this is for you,” Ballmer said. “Imagine if we built this so we could use all the apps you’re familiar with.”
Surface is the first tablet to come with an “ultra rigid” full magnesium case, he told the crowd.
It is just over 900g, less than 14mm thin but “a full PC”, he said.
The Surface has perimeter venting which Ballmer described as a “groove around the edge of the case which allows air to be vented so you never block it with your hands.”
Tech blog Mashable said: “In other words it shouldn’t get hot like an iPad can.”
Other features are a built-in stand and an attachable keyboard and “Vapor MG” scratch resistant casing.
The tablet also uses “digital ink” for a stylus and comes with a magnetic pen which connects to the top of the tablet.
Ballmer said Microsoft was working with Intel to release Surface as the next iteration of tablets.
Ballmer said the Surface would be “priced to compete” and that its price would be “comparable to tablets and Ultrabooks” but did not release a figure.
The demonstration didn’t come without a few hiccups. The first tablet didn’t work properly so Ballmer had to run off-stage to use a second one it’s reported.
The response to the new device has been mixed. Some calling the Surface “the next generation of mobile computing”. The tech blog also acknowledged that it may not kill the iPad but it might have the potential to revive Microsoft.
But it also said that not giving a price or release date was a big mistake.
Some Twitter users were sceptical. One user, @GuyEndoreKaiser wrote that the company would be “discontinuing its Microsoft Surface tablet in early 2014″.
News Limited Technology Editor Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson tweeted that “Microsoft’s Surface tablet looks exceedingly long. Cinematic ratio long. Cargo pants pocket long. “.
Others were confident Microsoft was on to a winner:
“Looks sharp and powerful! May have a winner here,” tweeted user @Richard Clarke.
The venue for the invite-only announcement was shrouded in secrecy and was reminiscent of tech mega rival Apple’s media-frenzied unveilings, was disclosed to participants only hours before the event itself.
Journalists – who last week received an invitation teasingly telling them “This will be a major Microsoft announcement – you will not want to miss it” – were told to turn up at the Milk Studios, in downtown Hollywood.
The Milk Studios website describes it as “one of the world’s premiere photography studios, (which) stands at the crossroads of fashion, photography, art and media” – although it was unclear what link it has with Microsoft.
Last week it was reported that Microsoft would unveil its own branded tablet powered by Windows in a head-on challenge to Apple.
Another report said the announcement would not involve a device with the upcoming Microsoft 8 operating system, but a co-branded tablet with Barnes & Noble, the struggling bookseller and maker of the Nook tablet.
Same say the device could allow consumers to link to the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console for streaming movies and other entertainment.
Microsoft in April announced a $300 million investment in a new Barnes & Noble subsidiary which includes the Nook business.
The brokerage firm Canaccord said “sources close to the matter” indicate Microsoft would unveil a tablet running the next version of Windows under its own brand, departing from its strategy of partnering with computer makers.
“Microsoft has been working with computer makers in the production of the tablets, looking to win share of the tablet market from the dominant iPad,” the brokerage said in a note to clients.
Some others speculated Microsoft might announce a deal to buy online video service Hulu and weave it into the Xbox Live online entertainment service linked to the Redmond, Washington-based company’s leading Xbox 360 videogame consoles.
The fact that the press event will be held at a yet-to-be disclosed venue in Los Angeles hinted heavily that entertainment industry content would be in the spotlight.
“It’s in LA, so they are going to talk about media,” said independent Silicon Valley analyst, Rob Enderle.
“It could be about hardware, but after the Kin failure and the Zune failure I can’t picture the person at Microsoft who has the balls to pitch a Microsoft tablet.”
Kin was a youth-oriented mobile phone from Microsoft that was pulled from the market after just weeks, while Zune was the longtime Apple rival’s now-abandoned MP3 device that unsuccessfully challenged the iPod.
Some analysts were speculating about an early release of Windows RT, the Microsoft operating system to power tablets or other mobile devices running on ARM chips, which allow mobile devices to run more efficiently.
Microsoft earlier this month stepped up its quest to be at the heart of home entertainment by syncing Xbox 360 videogame consoles to smartphones and tablets while adding more blockbuster content.