Despite the efforts of powerful competitors like Samsung, Research in Motion, and HP, the tablet computing market has long, perhaps always been dominated by Apple and their illustrious line of iPad devices.
Microsoft, however, signaled their intent to change that dynamic when they announced their very own, Windows 8-running Surface tablets this June, and now we’re finally learning when we’ll get our hands on the aspiring PC killer.
The firm filed its annual report to the SEC today, and the details within reveal that Surface will release on October 26 later this year, appropriately coinciding with the launch of Windows 8 (Microsoft ensures that their own hardware is the first to ship with the operating system built-in). “The next version of our operating system, Windows 8, will be generally available on October 26, 2012,” the report states. “At that time, we will begin selling the Surface, a series of Microsoft-designed and manufactured hardware devices.”
It’s also worth noting that the two variants of Surface – Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro – won’t both be available at launch; only the lighter, basic Windows RT model will be day-one ready, with Surface for Windows 8 Pro arriving 90 days later (January 24, 2013).
Microsoft clearly doesn’t mind being a late-comer to the tablet game – Apple may well have unveiled their fourth-generation iPad by the time Surface lands – but the full details on their product don’t lie: Surface is a major statement from the technology giant. With the ubiquity of the Windows operating system, it’s easy to forget that Microsoft still has no footing in the PC hardware space. These slick handheld touchpads are, indeed, that first step – and with a flip-down keyboard, USB 2.0 (3.0 for the Pro) ports, a kickstand and a 10.6” HD display, it’s entirely possible that Surface resembles the future model of standard personal computing.
Naturally, then, the ramifications for gaming would begin to appear as well.
We already know developers are eying the tablet – Epic’s Marc Rein recently expressed hope for bringing Unreal Engine-powered titles to Surface – and games, like Skulls of the Shogun, are set to appear via the Windows Store (much to Gabe Newell’s behest). More importantly, though, Microsoft now presides directly over two pieces of hardware compatible with the Xbox Smart Glass interface: a touchscreen tablet and a console. What’s to stop Surface from synching directly to the Xbox 720 and imitating much of what the Wii U Gamepad is capable of? From turning into a touchscreen controller? An accompanying device for co-op? A vibrant heads-up display or informational feed more complex than any Smart Glass iOS or Android app can produce? With next-generation Duragno dev kits in full circulation, it’s unlikely Microsoft hasn’t already fathomed integration between the two products.
One gets the sense that Surface is only the beginning of where Microsoft plans to steer personal computing hardware, and the potential gaming innovations destined to go along with it are yet another reason we can’t wait for the month of October.
Ranters, a pricing model for Surface hasn’t been announced yet, but do you plan on picking up the Microsoft tablet when it releases this October? What impacts on gaming – either through Surface or the devices it connects to – might be in store with Microsoft’s new presence in the tablet market?
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