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19.6.12

A Microsoft representative holds a new Surface tablet computer as it is unveiled by Microsoft in Los Angeles
Microsoft has introduced its own line of tablets, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple and re-invent its aging Windows franchise. The new tablet line, named Surface, includes a consumer device aimed directly at the Apple iPad, and another, larger machine designed to compete with lightweight laptops. Both include a keyboard that doubles as a cover, and both will be powered by versions of the new Windows 8 operating system.

The move breaks with Microsoft's operating model of the past 37 years, which has relied on computer manufacturers to make and market machines running Windows. It could throw the world's largest software company into direct competition with its closest hardware partners such as Samsung and HP. The new software is the biggest overhaul of Windows in years, and features a new touch-friendly interface dubbed "Metro". It is scheduled to be available for the Christmas shopping season.
 Steven Sinofsky, Michael Angiulo and Panos Panay hold the new Surface as it is unveiled in Los Angeles
 The lighter, thinner version of the Surface tablet, built on an Nvidia chip designed by ARM Holdings, will be the first to market at the same time as the general release of Windows 8, and will feature Microsoft's popular Office suite of applications. It is comparable to Apple's new iPad, heavier but slightly thinner. It has a 10.6 inch screen and comes in 32GB and 64GB memory sizes.

 New Surface tablet computers with keyboards are displayed at its unveiling by Microsoft in Los Angeles

A Microsoft representative holds a new Surface tablet computer as it is unveiled by Microsoft in Los Angeles, California, June 18, 2012. Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a media event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise.

Microsoft representatives hold a new Surface tablet computer as it is unveiled by Microsoft in Los Angeles, California, June 18, 2012. Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a much-hyped press event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise.
 President of the the Windows and Windows Live Division Sinofsky holds new Surface tablet computer during his presentation as it is unveiled in Los Angeles

New Surface tablet computers with keyboards are displayed at its unveiling by Microsoft in Los Angeles, California, June 18, 2012. Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a much-hyped press event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise.

President of the the Windows and Windows Live Division, Steven Sinofsky, holds the new Surface tablet computer during his presentation as it is unveiled in Los Angeles, California, June 18, 2012. Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a much-hyped press event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise.
Michael Angiulo holds the new Surface tablet computer and keyboard during his presentation as it is unveiled in Los Angeles
corporate Vice President of Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem Michael Angiulo holds the new Surface tablet computer and keyboard during his presentation as it is unveiled in Los Angeles, California, June 18, 2012. Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a media event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise.

Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a media event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise. A Microsoft representative scrolls the screen of the new Surface tablet computer as it is unveiled in Los Angeles

Microsoft kept its personal computer partners largely in the dark about its plans to launch a competing tablet computer, with some long-time collaborators learning of the new gadget only days before its unveiling, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The secrecy that shrouded the Surface tablet risks alienating Microsoft's hardware partners, and marks a departure from the software company's tradition of working closely with hardware companies to test and fine-tune every new product.

Competing head-on with PC makers may damage a relationship that has long dominated the computer world, where nine out of 10 PCs run on Windows. Analysts pointed to similar concerns in the Android smartphone world surrounding Google decision to buy Motorola. "The strategy may affect the willingness of device manufacturers to work so closely with Microsoft, as it will now be viewed as a competitor as well as a partner," said Andrew Milroy, vice president of ICT Research for Asia-Pacific at Frost & Sullivan in Singapore.

 Driving Microsoft's shift, say analysts, is the growing clout of Apple, whose iPad is threatening the market for notebook computers. Notebooks are still largely a Windows business, but its growth is a fraction of the tablet market.


"The big question is whether Microsoft puts out some sort of introductory pricing designed to seed the market or insists on making full margin on the device," said Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum in New York. "However, it risks alienating OEMs even further if it prices lower than they are able to."


While pricing is a sensitive issue, more damaging may be the lack of warning the partners say they had from Microsoft. Ovum's Dawson said Microsoft was giving its OEM partners "a huge vote of no confidence" and they would "rightly feel slighted". An executive at a Chinese handset maker, who didn't want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said: "It'll be a good strategy for Microsoft to focus on software development and leave its partners to make the hardware."

You know Apple's magnetically hinged iPad cover? Microsoft's Touch Cover is the same idea — same magnet hinge — except that on the inside, there are key shapes, and even a trackpad, formed from slightly raised, fuzzy material. Flip the cover open, flip out the kickstand and boom: you have what amounts to a 1.5-pound PC that sets up anywhere. It's not Bluetooth; there's no setup. The magnet clicks, and keyboard is ready for typing. You can buy this cover, in a choice of colors, with the Surface for $100, or later for $120. So that's the amazing, amazing hardware . Now the heartbreak: software. This computer runs Windows RT, a variation of Windows 8. RT is wildly different from the old Windows. You'll be thrilled or appalled, depending on your fondness for change.
 

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