Posting from Hollywood: The technology industry has spent the past few days speculating about Microsoft’s “major” announcement this afternoon. Will it be a tablet or something else? We’ll soon find out straight from the company itself.

The doors are scheduled to open at 3:30 p.m. at Milk Studios, a location that was revealed by the company this morning. Microsoft is promising ‘limited video and still photography opportunities’ after a main presentation, which confirms that there will be something to photograph, at least.

I’ll be posting the news as the event unfolds … stay tuned for details.

4:00: OK, I’m inside. It’s a studio with chairs arranged in theater seating around a stage. An animation with a series of rectangles — tablets? — is rendering in various colors across the screen behind the stage.

4:12: Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, is on stage, talks about success of Windows exceeding Microsoft’s wildest expectations. Runs through Windows 8 and talks about company’s plans for new operating system.

“Today we want to add another piece, another bit of excitement to that Windows 8 story.”

Runs a video talking about the company’s history in the hardware business. Microsoft Hardware marking its 30th anniversary this year. Kinect, Xbox 360 and other products highlighted in video as Ballmer sits on stage.

4:17: Any interface between human and machine is better when hardware and software are working together, Ballmer says. Notes that company’s most successful hardware product has been the Xbox.

Ballmer calls the company’s hardware relationships, with vendors, essential to the reimagining of Windows. Calls out Dell, HP, Acer, Toshiba and other hardware partners for the volume of Windows 8 machines they’re making.

“Much like Windows 1.0 needed the mouse to complete the experience, we wanted to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovation. It’s something new, it’s something different, it’s a whole family of computing devices from Microsoft.”

It’s a new tablet, and it’s called Surface.

Steven Sinofsky, the Windows chief, is now on stage. The device is 9.3 mm thick, less than 1.5 pounds. Detachable cover with a touch sensitive typing surface. Front and rear-facing cameras. Device also has Microsoft Office on it.

There’s one that runs on ARM processors, another on Intel, running Windows 8 Pro. Perimeter venting, a channel around the edge of the device, prevents users from blocking the vent.

Support for digital ink, with two digitizers to avoid inadvertent palm control when inking on the screen. Can double as full professional workstation with ability to connect to external monitor.

Microsoft’s Panos Panay, the leader of the team that created the device, now takes the stage, shows a video of the team back in Redmond talking about the device.

Here’s the full spec sheet from Microsoft detailing the two devices. The screen is 10.6 inches on both devices, about an inch bigger than the iPad’s screen. Hinges on kickstand were made to snap closed like a high-end car. “We really wanted to get the sound right, so you’d get that visceral feeling,” Panay says.

Now he turns to the TouchCover, the 3 mm keyboard/cover. When tablet snaps in via magnets, the background on screen of the tablet turns the same color as the cover. Panay talks about attention to detail, ease of attaching the cover. Cover has accelerometer built in, so it knows when it’s folded back.

Surface for Windows RT will be available in 32 and 64 GB model, and “will be priced like comparable tablets based on ARM.” Surface for Windows 8 Pro will come in 64 and 128 GB, pricing comparable to ultrabooks. No specifics on pricing. Windows RT will come out around time Windows 8 is released, Windows 8 Pro about three months later.

Ballmer back on stage, gives concluding comments, says company put a lot of time and research into product, and believes people will love it. He leaves and a product video shakes the studio with sound, showing the device.

That’s a wrap, next up is hands-on time with the devices. Stay tuned for more.

Here’s a version of the video they showed at the end.


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  • Smash

    Microsoft Actimates Interactive Barney 2.0? Consumer Edition: $99, Enterprise Edition: $199 (connects to Exchange), Ultimate: $299 (with Metro interface)

    If this turns out to be lame, does Todd have to walk home?

    • Todd Bishop

      Greyhound red eye

  • Guest

    July 17, 2006 – ArsTechnica –
    “Sometimes, if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. That appears to be the case with Microsoft, which, rumor has it, is preparing its own competitor to the iPod. Tired of seeing PlaysForSure devices failing to make significant inroads against the so-far unbeatable iPod-iTunes Music Store combo, Microsoft is apparently readying its own device to take Apple on directly.”

    The problem is not the product or the ecosystem – it’s the leadership and the utter lack of strategy.

    • Guest

      There are no problems with the leadership or the strategy.

      Other than Zune, name 25 things Steve Ballmer has done wrong in his tenure leading Microsoft. That’s all I ask. Just twenty-five.

      • Guest

        Courier? Oragami? OfficeTalk/Jabber? Where do I begin…

        Here’s 10 reasons to begin with:

        • Guest

          Thanks. Fifteen more, please.

          • Clippy

            You’re serious? He’s been CEO since 2000. So by your logic, he’s allowed 2 major fuck-ups every year? *After* you excuse the Zune? (disclaimer: And I *liked* the Zune.)

            But here, let me add to the list.

            – Windows Vista.
            – Tablet PC.

            – Hailstorm.

            – Windows Mobile.
            – Kin.

            – The *@!*ing *existing* product called Surface.
            – Groove.
            – Leaving the IE team gutted while Firefox stole away web developer mindshare. And by extension, the Internet.
            – The employee exodus, when MS started mucking with compensation to save pennies. Gee, start making the employees feel like cogs *right* when your competitors have opened up offices to steal your best-and-brightest. Brilliant. :/
            – Nearly every online initiative. And if you can’t think of at least 6 of those, you clearly aren’t trying.

            And I’m just waiting to throw Skype and Yammer up on this list.

            And I’m someone who *wants* Microsoft to succeed. Imagine the huge list someone with an axe to grind could come up with.

          • Guest

            I didn’t ask for “major muck-ups,” to bowdlerize your profane language. I asked for “25 things Steve Ballmer has done wrong.” Surely a man so hated could have messed up two things per year that one would complain about!

          • Guest

            I didn’t ask for “major muck-ups,” to bowdlerize your profane language. I asked for “25 things Steve Ballmer has done wrong.” Surely a man so hated could have messed up two things per year that one would complain about!

          • Donovan Kliegg

            Bing. Yahoo. Ad Central.

  • guest

    Sight unseen the market already voted:
    585.78 + 2.03%
    29.84 – .60%)

    • Steve Murch

      This was well before the announcement, of course. And lots of folks thought it’d be some kind of Barnes & Noble tablet…

  • Dan

    The graphics seem to indicate a dual screen device. What do you think Todd?

    • Todd Bishop

      Watch out Dan, you’re going to start a Courier rumor.

      • Dan

        Apparently the second box was a reference to the keyboard. Pretty neat design.

  • guest

    “Notes that company’s most successful hardware product has been the Xbox”
    Which, correct me If I’m wrong, they’re still about -$5 billion on after more than a decade?

    • Guest

      Given that Microsoft has about 40 million Xbox Live Gold members on at $60 a year, for about $2 billion in annual gross revenue from Gold, I think that -$5 billion cumulative deficit was erased years ago. Consider Gold subscriptions, hardware sales (which are now profitable given that the hardware is 7 years old), software sales, and downloadable add-on sales. The Xbox might as well be called the “Cashbox 360.”

      • guest

        And only about 50% of XBL subscribers pay for Gold membership. And doesn’t equal net.
        Feel free to provide a single instance of any senior MS executive claiming that Xbox is now lifetime profitable. You won’t find one.

        • guest

          > gross doesn’t equal net

        • Guest

          I don’t need senior Morgan Stanley executives to tell me that Xbox is now lifetime profitable. I know it to be true.

          • guest

            MS: Microsoft. Not the stock symbol for Morgan. And thank you for confirming that you can’t find a single statement from a senior Microsoft executive saying that Xbox is now lifetime profitable. Why? Because it isn’t.

          • Guest

            Are 40 million customers captive on your platform “unprofitable”? Understand the lifetime value of a customer, and you’ll find Xbox to be quite profitable.

            Most Microsoft executives don’t comment on this issue so as to avoid giving away their strategy, but for men who think, the indications are clear. Xbox is hugely profitable, now and forever.

          • Guest

            Are 40 million customers captive on your platform “unprofitable”? Understand the lifetime value of a customer, and you’ll find Xbox to be quite profitable.

            Most Microsoft executives don’t comment on this issue so as to avoid giving away their strategy, but for men who think, the indications are clear. Xbox is hugely profitable, now and forever.

        • Guest

          Let’s take a trip back to 2001. Apple introduces iPod, a personal media player (PMP) that is universally panned for its high price, poor feature set, and operability only with Macintosh. Flash forward to 2005, and iPod is driving sales of Macintosh computers. The PMP was not a profit center, but rather a marketing expense that paid off big time.

          Now, Microsoft are doing the same thing in a new market. Tens of millions of customers already entrust their living rooms to Microsoft thanks to the success of Xbox 360. This makes the transition to a concentricized personal operating environment (POE) quite smooth and pleasant, and for this reason we believe that Microsoft will be able to leverage Xbox Live to sell POEs and the apps to run thereon. The POE market is quite young and early devices have served few purposes over the PMPs that preceded them — until now, as Microsoft Surface is the first POE with so much as a USB 2.0 port built-in!

          In short, Xbox is the Trojan Horse and Microsoft Surface is Brad Pitt, and the profits are about to flow in like Trojans into wherever it was that they went in that movie.

          • guest

            iPod was extremely profitable for Apple, both annually and lifetime. The Halo effect its success provided for other Apple products was a side benefit. Xbox isn’t lifetime profitable and it’s Halo effect is so far non existent. It’s been *thirteen* years. Don’t you think if this iPod like payoff was going to occur for Xbox it already would have?

  • guest

    Awesome coverage, Thanks!

  • facebook-100000176348804

    Thank you for attending! You have done a great service!

  • cfo

    Very cool. So what happens with the product formerly known as ‘Surface’?

  • Guest

    No pricing + no launch date = no announcement.

    Microsoft, I demand information. As a customer, I demand it!

  • GadgetGeek

    After three years of smooth running with a tablet, I can now look forward to bluescreens, driver problems, crashes, memory leaks, viruses, and all kinds of features that Apple forgot to include!

    • Guest

      Android tablets have supported all those features for years. What was holding you up from buying one?

      • Donovan Kliegg

        FWIW, the openness of the Android architecture create those issues, the closed Metro Ui along with sand boxing of all the bits will be as stable or more stable than an ios device. And while its impossible to prove drivers as bug free, just like Apple, Microsoft will insure that their hardware is as crash free as possible.

        • GadgetGeek

          Will they? Google “red ring of death”.

          • Guest

            As with most first-generation hardware, early Xbox 360s had problems. Newer ones do not. When’s the last time you saw a first-gen device which was bug free?

    • Truthhz

      That old joke must get laughs with the fellow Apple Baristas, but the only thing that can crash 600 million Windows 7 machines is Quicktime and iTunes.

  • Guest

    No pricing info…. Hmmm.

  • Steve Murch

    Good news for the Microsoft ecosystem — including Windows 8 certainly, but also Windows Phone.

    Clever magnetic attachment of keyboard — looks like a great device for the airplane, office, and around the home. At 1.5 lbs, it’s about the same weight as an iPad 2 (and I believe that’s including the add-ons, so it appears to be lighter even than an iPad?)

    Microsoft’s got to signal strong commitment to this in the marketplace. Though they’ve built and sold the best-selling consumer electronics device of all-time (Kinect), they do have a checkered history of discontinuing platforms. But, at first glance, this does appear to be a great looking, versatile device.

    Note that since it runs ARM, it will NOT run legacy Windows apps. I am not arguing that it should — I think Metro is the right strategy here — just highlighting this easy-to-miss but very important point.

  • Guest

    If MS can concoct a deal to include a free Nokia phone with each purchase of a Surface, plus some nice device pairing apps between them…

    They’ll never convert Apple users…but, Android users? Could make a significant dent.

    Regardless, Android (Tablets) are the Big Loser of the Day.

    Second Biggest Loser? All those consumer-grade (i5 and below) Ultrabook vendors.

  • davidgeller

    Looks cool. Bravo, too, for Microsoft keeping a secret. That’s very uncharacteristic of them, and a good move for any company. If these are priced right it might provide consumers with an elegant and easy way to get introduced to Windows 8. Still, I think they’re going to have to work hard to keep the two very different models separated and properly marketed. At first it seems a little confusing. Once they port Angry Birds to it they can consider it a blessed mobile platform. :)

  • Jill Hatley

    Good night Apple You are now so not cool at all. The Surface is so much cooler than any iPad

  • Donovan Kliegg

    I’m curious as to how a keyboard and stylus is any more attractive now on a tablet PC than it was in the past. In the past, those less useful accessories only raised the price point and hindered adoption. Maybe they are saying that Microsoft tablet is useless without a keyboard and pointing device? Maybe they couldn’t sell the idea to Balmer and Sinofsky without it?

    Also, has anyone noticed that all the pictures of the event only show Apple products in use in the press pool? Somehow I think that no matter who cool this thing is, it is only going to amount to a short line at the MS store and a footnote in history. I love the folks involved with this effort, but I feel a bit of tragic sadness as they repeat the mistakes of the past.

    Good news though, Amazon, Facebook and Google are always hiring.

  • Janice Toopler

    Yes, the press pool using Apple products. Kind says it all. Fashion is fickle and the press corp will move to the next. Looks like the surface does everything the iPad does plus a whole lot more. Intelligent (apologies to the English majors that are our “tech” press pool) users buy utility and utimately utility wins in technology. Great job Microsoft, can’t wait to use all the utility of the new Surface tablet.

  • Leo Lam

    I think it should also be noted that the launch video was done by Keith Rivers Films – right here in Seattle at The House Studios. I personally think that this is the coolest launch video Microsoft has ever put out!

  • marko’

    I like the fact that Microsoft is security conuiouse. and producing new and adaptable computers and find there thinking original in most cases infact the stand that could be wfi antenna. aswell there inovating with equal amount of thought put in to each small or larg adaptation and think they should give more air time to letting people know just how unique the new pads and out coming items to the market are well done. mark !

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