Wednesday Grok: Microsoft launches Surface tablet

How will its hardware partners react?

As flagged in tail of Monday’s Grok , Microsoft this week took the wraps off its all new Windows 8 tablet, called Microsoft Surface. The company played its cards very close to its chest prior to this announcement to such an extent that Grok’s chum inside Microsoft had only learned of the product in recent days.

The instant reaction to Surface has been good. Techcrunch’s Matt Burns wrote, “In fact, perhaps I’m still a little drunk on Microsoft Kool-Aid, but the Surface seems like the next generation of mobile computing. While Surface might not kill the iPad, it might revive Microsoft... The tablet itself seems fantastic. Compared to the iPad, it’s a bit utilitarian with hard lines, full size I/O ports, and heat vents. But it also seems like a serious tablet rather than a play thing.”

Techcrunch noted that a big strength of Apple’s iPad was the lure for third-party developers, then made the obvious point that Surface is running Windows — “the most dominant computing platform on Earth”.

Apart from the tablet itself, most interest focuses on Microsoft decision to own the hardware experience itself.

For its part, <i>Mashable</i> asked what Surface will mean for other Windows 8 tablets. Traditionally, Microsoft has avoided competing directly with its hardware partners, but that’s exactly what it’s doing with Surface, as Mashable pointed out. “We can’t imagine that Microsoft’s hardware partners are too pleased with this news. After all, not only do the manufacturers have to compete with one another, they now have to contend with Microsoft.”

Actually, Techcrunch was even blunter suggesting that the approach suggested Microsoft doesn’t really trust its partners to do as good a job as it can do itself.

<i>PandoDaily</i> looked behind the announcement and said Surface is really about a company in transition. After suggesting that the tablet looks “phenomenal” and “ground breaking” it then cautioned, “Microsoft seems determined to not take a stance on the future of computing... Microsoft is ready to enter a post-PC world, but the company is still trying to reconcile its PC background and its post-PC future.”

The article noted the difficult balancing act at play — attempting to take control of the hardware experience while staying in the good books with its hardware partners.

Some basic specs: It weighs 1.5 pounds, has a 10.6 inch display and is 9.3 mm thick. There are two versions: The basic model which will only run Windows 8 apps, and a professional version which will run all Windows apps, but is also heavier and thicker. You can see the full spec list over at the <i>Business Insider</i>.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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