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Surface tablets can take a fall

Big focus on hardware features includes Microsoft demo of the device being dropped

October 25, 2012 04:54 PM ET

Computerworld - NEW YORK -- Microsoft officials on Thursday demonstrated that the vendor's new Surface tablet can withstand a fall from several feet onto a carpeted floor and is strong enough to be used as a skateboard.

Sinofsky and skateboard
Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, holds a Surface tablet with skateboard wheels attached to show the strength of the device during the launch event for Microsoft Windows 8 in New York. (Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

At its presentation here, Microsoft added skateboard wheels to a Surface tablet and showed a photo of a Microsoft official standing on Surface/skateboard.

The skateboard is not for sale, of course, but Microsoft is clearly hoping that its demonstration of the strength and durability of its new 10.6-in. tablets will encourage customers to check out the Windows RT devices when they go on sale Friday. Pricing for the Windows RT version starts at $499 for a 32GB model. A Windows 8 Pro version of the Surface is due in about three months, but no pricing was announced for that model.

In previous demonstrations, including the Surface launch event in June, Microsoft demonstrated the magnetically-attached Touch Cover and Type Cover that are available for Surface devices, and highlighted the fact that the Surface has a metal rear kickstand that closes with a distinctive click. The click has inspired a catchy TV ad featuring dancers of all ages clicking the kickstands in rhythm. The covers are sold separately and start at $129.

Surface architect Panos Panay said Microsoft tested how its new tablet endured falls from 72 different positions. In his demonstration on stage, he dropped a Surface tablet from about five feet onto a carpet and said it was fine.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moore Insights and Strategy, said Microsoft showed off the durability of the Surface tablet in an attempt to compare it with the iPad, which he said is susceptible to breakage.

"They were trying to validate that Surface is tougher than iPad and can be dropped without shattering," Moorhead said. "The iPad does break, and if you break the display it's hard to repair."

There was little demonstration of the Surface's touchscreen capability, but that's more of a software-oriented feature, and Panay and Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, focused on the tablet's hardware design.

"It has to feel great, has to feel light and has to feel right," Sinofsky said. Panay said the Surface's ergonomic design will give users the impression that the device is lighter than its actual weight of 1.5 lbs.

The Surface has a USB port, for connecting to printers and other peripherals. It will also support a microSD card.

The Windows RT version of Surface will ship with the Office Home and Student 2013 software suite, which includes OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It won't support older Microsoft apps.

covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen, or subscribe to Hamblen RSSMatt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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