announced their new line of Surface tablets yesterday, and they look pretty sweet. The tablets come in either an ARM chip version for Windows RT (Windows 8 for ARM), or the Surface for Windows 8 Pro (which uses an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 chip, running Windows 8). Lots of unanswered questions still, but there are still at least several months before we see the ARM version (and 90 days after that before the Intel version ships).
Of course, a lot depends on details that Microsoft didn't reveal, like the exact specs or, you know, the price. And since they didn't let journalists actually use the devices, it's not clear how smoothly they operate (a big problem with many Android tablets). Assuming Microsoft can get all these details sorted out, though, I think these tablets have some serious potential. They shouldn't have a problem grabbing the #2 slot in the tablet market away from Android, anyway. For Windows users the idea of running all your Windows software on a tablet, and doing it well, sounds pretty good. (Assuming it's not too damn expensive, that is.)
For gaming, these bad boys could bring keyboard-and-mouse games on the road in a big way. OK, it's a trackpad instead of a mouse, which is less-than-optimal for some games. But for a lot of games it could be just fine.
What's not to like? A few things... the nomenclature is clunky. Surface for Windows RT? Surface for Windows 8 Pro? Inelegant and confusing. How about just Surface RT and Surface Pro? Or something equally simple. Apple's had some naming clunkers, too -- MacBook Pro with Retina Display is far less nifty than the actual device. Still, they have time to fix this.
More problematic is announcing so far ahead of shipment. Maybe they felt rushed by the impending announcement of Google's tablet (rumored to occur next week). Maybe the wanted to slow the headlong rush into iPads, and perhaps make it so Apple won't sell 20 million more by the time they get this to market. In any case, they've given every competitor some time to think up responses.
How will this dovetail with their smartphones, and with Xbox 360, and the Xbox 720? You can bet Microsoft will try to make these things fit together somehow. This may be the right product to knit together their various divisions, and get the success of Xbox and Windows working together to make a new category successful.
Or it could just be another Zune, and end up as a trivia question someday. Maybe. I think this has some good potential, but Microsoft still has many, many things to get right before it launches. I'm rooting for them; successful competition will drive everyone to make better devices at better prices, and consumers all win in that case.