The standard bearer of home computing has been turning a few heads in the buildup to its next operating system, Windows 8, which will bring many of the features and functions introduced by mobile devices to its user interface. Coinciding with the launch of the new OS at the end of the month, as well as the first Windows Phone 8 handsets, Microsoft has opened up preorders for its Surface tablets before their October 26th release.
Arriving in both 32GB and 64 GB models ranging from $500 to $700, this slate marks a departure for the company which traditionally focused on designing software and letting its third party partners worry about designing and constructing the hardware on which it would run. In an effort to solidify the Windows brand and product line as a viable solution in an increasingly interconnected world of desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet computers, the Surface will run a modified version of the new operating system—dubbed Windows RT—that is optimized for mobile computing but sacrifices what could be considered vital functions in the absence of Windows Media Player and a full version of Microsoft Office. An additional tablet running full Windows 8 is expected to arrive sometime next year, and it likely won’t be long before we see alternatives from those same manufacturers which the Redmond-based company has circumvented in creating its own physical product.
Surface is aiming not only to change the position of Microsoft in the realm of hardware, but also the perception of tablets in our day to day lives. Presently, tablets are commonly looked upon as media players able to stream movies, run games, play music, browse the web, display e-books and, perhaps, write a document or two; they exist largely for entertainment, and can occasionally double as agents of productivity. The Surface will not detract from these tasks in anyway, but one of its key selling points is the option for two protective keyboard covers (one a touch-sensitive screen-like tool, the other bearing actual raised keys) which combined with the tablet/desktop hybrid of an OS, support for wireless mice, and a built-in kickstand turn the tablet into what could nearly be considered a full-fledged laptop, ideal for working on an important spreadsheet or writing an article.
The eventual success of Redmond’s latest inventions is difficult to predict. Windows 8 is one of the largest changes in user interface the company has seen in some time (it could be argued that the leap from 7 to 8 is the most drastic in Microsoft’s history), which may leave many long-time users feeling alienated. The decision to enter the hardware market has certainly done nothing to endear Microsoft to its many partners; it may even put a strain on the relationship with other manufacturers. If all goes as designed, however, the marriage of mobile and desktop OS’s will pave the way for a seamless transition from work to home to computing on the go; the Surface will be a standard against which other Windows tablet producers must measure themselves, but not an inhibitor upon their businesses.
Are you excited for the upcoming Surface launch? Do you plan to buy one before the holidays? Leave a message below or tell us about it on the Long Island Lounge.