Microsoft unveiled the first computer it has ever made, a tablet called the Surface that comes with a keyboard and other features designed to stand out in a market dominated by Apple Inc.
Microsoft’s Executive Officer Steve Ballmer introduces the Surface tablet during the press conference in Milky Studios on June 18. The new device, unveiled by Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer at an event for journalists here, is a sign of the new tactics the software giant has been forced to embrace as it tries to make up lost ground in the mobile market. The Surface has a built-in kickstand and magnetic cover, which also acts as a touch keyboard. Microsoft didn’t say whether the device would connect to cellular data networks or would be Wi-Fi only.
The Surface will “be priced like comparable tablets,” Windows Chief Steve Sinofsky said. Microsoft will sell the tablets itself at Microsoft’s handful of retail stores and through some online channels. Microsoft didn’t identify contractors who will manufacture the hardware, or provide much clarity on timing—except to say that the first Surface models will arrive when Windows 8 is generally available, which is expected to be in the second half of the year. Mr. Ballmer styled the new tablet device as a vehicle to exploit its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, and a variant called Windows RT that relies on different kinds of computer chips. The software is the first from Microsoft designed with tablet computers in mind, offering an interface called Metro that is designed to be controlled by a user touching a display. “The Surface is a PC, the Surface is a tablet and the Surface is something new that we think people will really love,” Mr. Ballmer said in wrapping up the event, which lasted less than one hour. Microsoft’s involvement with tablet-style computing goes back more than three decades, supplying software to companies for products designed to be activated with a pen-style device. But those machines failed to gain wide acceptance.
The Surface, and the new versions of Windows, are an attempt to emulate the touch-based interaction that Apple popularized with the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft showed off the two versions of the Surface. The versions running Windows 8 will run chips from Intel Corp., which supplies chips used in most PCs. The versions running Windows RT will be powered by chips from Nvidia Corp. based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC, a variety of chips widely used in cellphones and tablets.