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Microsoft enters hardware business with Surface

Microsoft enters hardware business with Surface

The initial version of Surface will run a modified version of Windows 8 called RT. The device will start at $499,

Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president of the Planning and PC Ecosystem team at Microsoft, shows the company's Surface tablet computer. Photo: AP Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president of the Planning and PC Ecosystem team at Microsoft, shows the company's Surface tablet computer. <em>Photo: AP</em>
Microsoft will be releasing its own tablet computer 'Surface ' for the first time when the new version of Windows comes out on Friday, as the software company tries to challenge Apple Inc. and its dominant iPad.

The initial version of Surface will run a modified version of Windows 8 called RT. That means Surface won't run standard Windows programsmes, only apps designed for it and obtained through Microsoft's new online store.

The device will start at $499, the same as the most recent, full-sized iPads . The display is 10.6 inches diagonally, slightly larger than the iPad's.

The Surface goes on sale on Friday. The only place to get them is at Microsoft's retail stores and its website. The earliest shipment for new online orders is now one to two weeks away.

A Surface with Windows 8 Pro and the ability to run regular Windows programs will come a few months later. Microsoft hasn't disclosed the price.

At the launch event on Thursday, Microsoft described Surface as an extension of Windows, though the company noted that it's about extending other Microsoft products, too. Panos Panay, general manager of the Surface team, demonstrated watching movies and listening to music on the Surface. He also streamed audio and video from the Surface to a nearby Xbox.

In a gimmick to demonstrate the tablet's durability, Panay dropped the device from shoulder height to the stage to show how tough its glass and magnesium case was. He also displayed a photo of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky standing on a Surface outfitted with wheels to make a skateboard.

The Surface has a kickstand and its back camera is angled in such a way that when it's leaning on the stand, it shoots straight out, not toward the table. Panay demonstrated how that design allows someone to use Surface to take notes and record video at the same time.

The cover for the Surface costs $100 extra for the basic, $499 device. It comes free with the $699 version. On the inside of the cover are printed "keys" for typing. Panay noted that the cover is pressure-sensing, so if you just rest your hands on it, it's not going to start erratically typing.

The cover also folds back and can act as a support for the device's kickstand if you're placing it on your lap, although using it this way appeared to make it difficult to type.

As previously disclosed, the Surface will come with fully functioning versions of Office 2013 software for word processing, spreadsheets and other business tasks. Other tablets running Windows RT, the lightweight version of the operating system, will also come with a version of Office for free.

Here are details the Surface:
Windows RT version of Surface
Weight: About 1.5 lbs. (676 grams)
Thickness: 9.3 mm
Screen: 10.6 inches (diagonal) with ClearType HD Display
Connections: microSD slot, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennas (for wireless communications)
Storage options: 32 Gigabytes and 64 Gigabytes
Price: $499 for 32 GB version, $699 for 64 GB version.
Availability: Oct 26
Extras: Touch Cover, which has working, printed keyboard on inside surface but whose keys don't move when pushed, will cost $100 extra when purchased with the 32 GB version (It's $120 if bought separately). It's included with 64 GB version. Type Cover, with keys that move, costs $130.

Windows 8 Pro version of Surface
Weight: About 2 lbs. (903 grams)
Thickness: 13.5 mm
Clear: 10.6 inches (diagonal) with ClearType Full HD Display
Connections: microSDXC slot, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennas (for wireless communications)
Storage options: 64 GB and 128 GB
Price: Not yet announced.
Availability: Not yet announced.