Surface tablets can take a fall

Big focus on hardware features includes Microsoft demo of the device being dropped

NEW YORK -- Microsoft officials have demonstrated how the new Surface tablet can withstand a fall from several feet onto a carpeted floor and is strong enough to be used as a skateboard.

At its presentation here, Microsoft also added skateboard wheels to a Surface tablet, showing a photo of a Microsoft official standing on one.

The skateboard is not for sale, of course, but the demo indicated how Microsoft is hoping customers will see this resilience in its new 10.6-in. tablets running Windows RT as the devices go on sale Friday, starting at $499 for a 32 GB version. The WIndows 8 Pro version is due out in about three months, but no pricing was announced.

In previous demonstrations, including the launch of the Surface in June, Microsoft demonstrated the magnetically-attached Touch Cover and Type Cover for the Surface devices, and a metal rear kickstand that closes with a distinctive click. The click has inspired a catchy TV ad featuring dancers of all ages clicking the kickstands in rhythm. The covers are sold separately and start at $129.

Surface architect Panos Panay said the Surface tablet was tested extensively for falls from 72 different positions. In his demonstration on stage, he dropped the tablet from about five feet onto a carpet and said it was fine.

There was little demonstration of the important touchscreen capability of Surface, but that's more an element of software and Panay and Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, focused more heavily on the tablet's hardware design. The Windows RT version will ship with Office Home and Student 2013, which includes OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It won't support older Microsoft apps, however.

"It has to feel great, has to feel light and has to feel right," Sinofsky said. Panay said the ergonomic design will leave the impression on users that the device actually feels lighter than its 1.5 pounds.

Surface also has a USB port, for connecting to printers and other peripherals. It will also support a microSD card.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.

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