Microsoft revealed their Surface and RT tablets during an event in Los Angeles. Built on the Windows 8 architecture, they are designed to counter the growing popularity of Apple and Google OS tablets.

“We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects of the experience — hardware and software — are considered and working together,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the invitation-only event here. “Today we want to add another bit of excitement to the Windows 8 story.”

“It raises the bar on how Microsoft executes on this because now Microsoft’s name is on it,” notes IDC analyst Al Hilwa. “They’ve got to get it right — they’ve got to really hit it out of the ballpark.”

Microsoft Surface will feature a 10.6-inch wide display with Gorilla Glass, its own stand, a full-size USB port, dual Wi-Fi antennae, a multitouch keyboard, a trackpad and come with either 64 gigabytes or 128 GB of storage. The tablet will only be about a half-inch thick, says Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.

“With Windows 1.0, we needed the mouse to complete the experience,” said Ballmer. “We wanted to give Windows 8 its own hardware innovation. Something new, different, a whole new family of computing devices from Microsoft.”

This comes at a key time for Microsoft, as Windows 8 is a touch-friendly operating system built around dynamic tiles that are supposed to work equally well on more traditional PCs and tablets. “There’s a lot of change coming in this version of Windows, some of it very exciting,” says Michael Cherry, analyst with the independent Directions on Microsoft research firm. “I think it’s going to take time to cope with the level of change that’s occurring.”

Worldwide tablet sales are forecast to rocket 54.4 percent to 107 million units this year compared with last, while the worldwide PC market is expected to grow just 5 percent to 383 million PCs shipments in 2012 compared with a year ago. IDC forecasts that by 2016 there will be 221 million tablets shipped worldwide, and 61 percent of those will be sold by Apple.

Apple also has over 225,000 apps on their side. “The bar is pretty high to outshine the iPad,” says Hilwa. “It’s going to be a tough act to follow.”

While Microsoft has relied upon licensing out their Windows OS in the past, these new tablets carry issues. “If (Microsoft is) successful, your licensees resent you [for competing with them],” Gartenberg says. “If you’re not successful, than you resent them. One way or another it’s a problem, like trying to play both sides.”

Of course, between Microsoft’s two different tablet versions and others running Intel chips out in stores, it may confuse customers. “Too many choices will overwhelm consumers,” says Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

Microsoft has already incorporated the feel of Windows 8 in its products from Window Phone to Xbox. They could integrate the Kinect camera to tablets in an unusual twist — voice and motion controls.

“They could create some great synergy with Xbox,” says Hilwa.

Source: USA Today