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The tablet has Surfaced: Windows opening for new devices

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Last week, software major announced its intent to launch a tablet PC, christening the hand-held device as Surface. The company detailed that there will be two models of the — one featuring an and the other is the version of meant for devices with ARM chips. There will also be a version with an and Windows 8 Pro. Both versions of the Surface are said to feature a 10.6-inch HD display, front and rear cameras, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

We have already seen companies like Acer and Asus announce Windows 8 tablets, and not to mention a few other vendors that are selling Windows 7 in the market today. But why is Microsoft itching to have a share in the tablet PC market rather than leaving the hardware to other manufacturers? Worldwide PC shipments are growing ever so slowly that in turn are affecting Windows’ revenues for the company and the tablet PC market has begun to pinch Microsoft, where it doesn’t 't have any competitive edge over Android based smart devices or the ever-growing Apple iPad.

How is Windows 8 OS on a tablet PC like? The sleek, touch-friendly design of Metro (tiled user interface on Windows 8) seems to be perfect for tablets, but remains untested for much-touted productivity features. There’s a Release Preview version (beta) of Windows 8 available for downloads, and if you already own a Windows 7 touch-capable PC today, then try the Windows 8 Preview and see for yourself what the OS is all about. According to Microsoft, Windows 8 will allow users to freely switch between the touch control interface, a keyboard or mouse. The company hasn’t specified when Windows 8 will hit the market, but most analysts expect the software to come out in September or October 2012.

Meanwhile, here’s a preview of some of the best Windows tablet devices that you will soon have in markets.

Asus Transformer Book
At Computex in Taiwan, Asus showed off the upcoming Transformer Book that will ship with a range of Intel Ivybridge Core i3/5/7 processors and discrete Nvidia graphics. According to Asus, this will be the thinnest Core i7 computer in the world. Users can choose a display of 11.6, 13 or 14-inch, making the tablet one of the largest in the market. The touchscreen tablet PC can plug into a keyboard docking station, effectively becoming a laptop (or ultrabook, if you prefer). Sporting the latest Windows 8 OS, this tablet is due for a debut later this year along with Windows 8 launch. The Transformer Book models will sport dual cameras – a HD front-facing camera and a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera. Company hasn’t put out any word on pricing or availability yet.

MSI Slider Tablet
If virtual keyboards (like the ones on Android tablets and iPad) just don't appeal to you in a way physical keyboard does, you should wait for the launch of hybrid tablet category on Windows 8 platform. MSI’s latest hybrid design, the Slider S20 Ultrabook packs in a keyboard that slides out from behind the screen. MSI also announced that the Slider will weigh around 1.3 kgs, features an Ivybridge CPU under the hood and is designed to work on Windows 8 platform. Rather than equipping the tablet with a solid-state drive, MSI has opted for a hybrid hard drive that will offer much more storage than the average solid state drive. USB 3.0 connectivity is also included, as are an HDMI 1.4 output port, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. While the company has not announced the pricing yet, the tablet PC is scheduled to hit the markets in second half of the year.

Acer Iconia W510
At the Computex, Acer showed off its Windows 8 line up for 2012 and that includes a 10.1-inch W510, and the 11.6-inch W700 Iconia tablet PC. The W510 will feature support for a detachable keyboard dock that Acer says will extend the battery life of the tablet to about 18 hours. On the W700, there’s a multi-touch support for up to 10 fingers as well as Dolby Home Theatre audio and a trio of USB 3.0 ports. The W700 also comes with a cradle that allows the tablet to be placed at a 70 degree angle for viewing or a 20 degree angle for easier touching, claims Acer.

Microsoft Surface
The 2 versions of Surface, due to launch in the next few months, will differ primarily on their hardware profiles with one running on the ARM-based NVIDIA chipset (Tegra 3), and other based on the 3rd generation Intel Core series processor (Ivybridge). In his keynote speech, CEO Steve Ballmer emphasised that Surface will be an entertainment device “without compromising the productivity that PCs are uniquely known for.” Surface, supported by Windows 8, will likely become the first of many portable PC-type machines that Microsoft releases. At the unveiling of Surface, Ballmer showed that the new tablets will run Windows 8 apps, such as Netflix. Microsoft didn’t say how long the Surface would last on battery power.

Why you need to watch out for Surface? For starters, the tablet’s magnetised Touch Covers are as thin and unobtrusive as iPad’s cover but the inclusion of a razor thin (just 3 mm), full, qwerty keyboard on one side promises to elevate the whole experience of using the tablet PC to new level. And Microsoft promises that its new operating system was built for precisely this sort of hybrid laptop/tablet experience. The killer feature? The fact that Microsoft will pack the full suite of its desktop applications that billions of users are already dependent on in tablet devices.

Microsoft is constitutionally incapable of doing what Apple does, and the same goes for Apple. But will that make buyers stop lusting for Apple iPad and turn them towards Windows 8 tablets? It’s a wait and watch.

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