It’s basically Microsoft’s mighty morphin’ iPad. It runs a version of Windows 8 designed for tablets. It’s got a really neat cover (more on that in a second). And it has a kickstand built into it. It’s pretty cool.
But as Microsoft is very keen to tell you, for $500, you get twice the storage of the $500 iPad model (32GB instead of 16GB), a bigger screen (10.6 inches instead of 9.7) and a real USB port (U S B vs. NOTHING AT ALL, THAT’S WHAT). That’s pretty good pricing for the tablet itself, and obviously makes it a direct competitor to the iPad. You can pre-order one at surface.com in like an hour (12pm ET), or buy it in person at the Microsoft Store, which is the only place on earth you can buy one, starting October 26.
But! The basically mandatory Touch Cover makes the real price at least $600.
If you buy a Surface, you will want this thing. It’s no accident that Microsoft first real ad for Surface revolves around the Touch Cover, which is essentially a 3mm thin pressure-sensitive multitouch gesture surface for typing. I got to use it for a second yesterday, and it’s actually kind of a magical little piece of technology? The thing is, it’s key to Microsoft’s whole message about what makes Surface different: That it can do everything. That it’s a tablet with all of the things that make an iPad great — easy to use, killer battery life, APPS — but you can also do laptop-y things with it, like type at full speed without compromising on all of the other tablet stuff. Without that Touch Cover, that’s not super possible. So you need it. If you don’t get it bundled in the $600 package, it’ll run $120 separately. But at least it comes in very bright colors if you do buy it separately.
There’s also a thicker version that’s a REAL keyboard with REAL moving keys for people who don’t want to adapt to the Touch Cover’s hybrid touch/real typing keyboard (which again, sounds weird, but is pretty cool). It’s $130.
For that extra $200, you get 64GB of storage and a Touch Cover thrown in. There’s no 4G option like the iPad, so this is the top-of-the-line model.
What Microsoft has tried to deliver here is a tablet that does more than the iPad for what looks like the exact same price. On one level, it’s done a pretty good job at that. But it’s essentially cheated a bit, hiding $100 of the cost by tucking it under a separate-but-critical piece of the Surface picture, the Touch Cover.
In other words, Microsoft’s iPad is $500. But Microsoft’s Surface is $600.