Microsoft announces 10.6-inch Surface tablet with Windows 8 (Video)

Is Microsoft cool again? That’s the thought we had as the Surface crossed our monitors this evening as Microsoft announced its first self-manufactured tablet. The 10.6-inch slate comes with a few unique features that differentiates it from the general tab population, including a built-in kickstand and full-sized USB ports, but what we’re most interested is the software: it’s all about the apps.

To that end, the company is announcing two separate products: one running ARM-compatible Windows RT, and another running Intel-compatible Windows 8 Pro. The casing is made of magnesium, which goes by another name, VaporMg — the first of its kind in a PC, claims Microsoft — and the Windows RT version is 9.3mm thick and under 1.5lbs. The Windows 8 Pro variety will be a slightly thicker and heavier 1.9lbs.

It will run all the apps one can expect from Windows 8 and will have full access to the Windows Store which will hopefully be more populous by the time it launches later this year. We do know that Netflix for Windows 8 is coming, and the tablet will ship with a full version of touch-optimized Office.

The coolness doesn’t end with the hardware, though; the Touch Cover case is an add-on that provides a 3mm thick typing surface with a multitouch trackpad. A separate Type Cover will add tactile keys as it sacrifices thickness.

Surface comes with front and rear cameras, with the former angled 22 degrees so it can be used when the stand is stationed on the kickstand. The screen has a 16:9 ratio of unknown resolution, though Microsoft claims that it has ultra-wide viewing angles that adjusts to the environment. The screen comes with two digitizers, one for touch and the other for pen input that makes annotations and editing easy. The add-on stylus is also magnetized and will stick to the side of the case.

The ARM-based version will come in 32 and 64GB models, while the Intel version will go up to 128GB.

Pricing hasn’t yet been released for the tablet(s), nor availability, but Microsoft says they will be priced competitively within their appropriate categories. We’d guess that the Intel version will cost a bit more.

Will this be enough to dethrone the iPad and calm Microsoft detractors? Any way you slice it, Microsoft getting into the tablet hardware game — and emphasizing the marriage of hardware and software — is a big deal. Android vendors will stand up and take notice, especially since Google is expected to do the same thing in just over a week.

The technology is certainly cool, but we still have to wait on price, apps and availability.

Read more about the Microsoft Surface tablet and watch below for a cool demo video.