Here are five things you need to know about the Microsoft Surface.
1 The keyboard
You can get keyboards for the iPad and Android tablets, but this one is designed to be part of the package “out of the box”. Unlike the standard iPad SmartCover, when you open the Surface cover (which you have to pay more for) there’s a keyboard built-in. Because you’ll be able to run Word and Excel on the tablet, the big question is how easy it will be to bash out presentations and proposals on that keyboard.
Obviously these keyboards aren’t quite like your desktop computer keyboard. There are two types – one is called the Touch Cover, and actually doesn’t have physical buttons that press up and down. Instead it’s flat, and senses when you press the “keys”. Microsoft has said it wants it to be “twice as efficient as typing glass”.
There’s also a Type Cover, with actual real buttons that press up and down. We note that the keys are very close together, and don’t have hardly any space between them. Personally, we’ve found we make a lot more mistakes with this keyboard style, but we’ll reserve our judgement till we have a chance to use one ourselves.
2 You can plug things in
In other words, your USB keys. Unlike the iPad, the Microsoft Surface is happy for you to go plugging in things like USB keys and microSD cards. It’s not that these things are impossible with an iPad, but it’s much less of a hassle with the Surface.
3 The big deal is Windows
The hardware, as always, is only half the story. The big deal, is that you’ll be able to run Windows programs you need for work, if you have the correct version of Windows. Remember, there are two versions – Surface with Windows RT, which only runs the new style of Windows apps dubbed “Metro” apps. Then there’s Surface with Windows 8 Pro, which will also run programs (x86 programs) that run on Windows 7.
4 The price
Today we now know the price of the Surface with Windows RT will be in the same ballpark as the iPad – starting at $559 for 32GB without the keyboard cover (compared to $539 for the entry level 16GB WiFi iPad), up to $759 with a cover and 64GB (compared to $759 for the 64GB WiFi iPad).
5 There are other options