Microsoft has just unveiled its answer to the iPad, with what they are calling the ’Surface‘ – a tablet PC capable of running the latest version of their flagship Windows operating system. Although this is certainly a bold move for a company that typically prefers to leave the task of designing and marketing hardware to OEMs, the prospects for this device are considerable.
It can be hard to forget that, despite the overwhelming popularity of Apple products, Microsoft still enjoys a 92.5% share of the desktop computing market. Given that the growing demand for tablets has negatively influenced sales of traditional laptops, a solution was desperately needed. Although Microsoft has had mixed success in the past with other proprietary hardware products (the Xbox being a relative triumph compared to the unfortunate Zune), after watching the Surface teaser video you may find yourself suitably impressed with the design. The magnetic cover/keyboard is nothing short of innovative, and the fact that it can run a full version of Windows 8 (which – if you haven’t tried it – has been quite well received) is a game-changer. The prospect of being able to run a full desktop OS (along with full desktop applications) on a tablet device is what makes the Surface so enticing. It should be noted that although the Android platform is already fully capable of this, most consumers will likely prefer the seamless transition from their existing Windows devices and software.
If you accept that computing – both enterprise and personal – is trending towards the convergence of multiple devices within a single, mobile platform, this could very well be what gives Microsoft the edge over Apple in the tablet space. Of course, by enabling other vendors to sell their own Windows 8 tablets, MSFT wins either way.