This evening, for those living on the East Coast, Microsoft unveiled the new Microsoft Surface Windows 8 based tablet line. Despite several blogs holding polls and contests to guess what Microsoft had in store, nobody quite hit the mark. The fact that Microsoft was able to stir up so much buzz and hype for an out of the blue, nearly last minute event and very resoundingly meeting the hype by keeping the product line under wraps should speak volumes to how much Microsoft feels the impact of the Surface family line of tablets/PCs will have.

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Microsoft, in one fell swoop, was able to decisively answer Apple’s New iPad and updated MacBook Air with devices that brought their own measure of innovation to the tablet market. The bold, vibrant new Touch Cover and Type Covers give the functionality you can only find with the iPad through 3rd party manufacturers. Microsoft just put the Smart in Smartcover.

When I think about the MacBook Air, I think of the groundbreaking slim design and the casting away of legacy ports and parts. No manufacturer has yet to produce a laptop that has matched the Air yet in its thinness and weight. Leave it to the scrappy underdogs, as much an underdog an 800 lb. gorilla can be, to exceed the Air. They did it the same way they offered up a new Metro-inspired mobile operating system – their way. No flipping down of the lid and no having to lug around a computer bag; simply fold the SmartCover over and walk around with what would appear to be a book.

Not for one second do I think that these two Surface tablets will sell more than the iPad or Air. What it has accomplished is set the benchmark for the hardware partners who will be championing Windows 8 in an attempt to beat back Apple from taking over the PC market by convincing the world they don’t need all that productivity in the first place. For as much as the non-functional Retina Display gets Apple props for innovation, the Touch and Type Covers from Microsoft and the Surface tablets should get even more press. Microsoft managed to, in a way, out-Apple Apple. They have managed to give the consumer the opportunity to have one device for home and on the go which means it’s good on the pockets. In this world economy that’s even more important.

As a finishing thought, I can’t help but to wonder if Tim Cook’s dismissive quote on Windows 8 (“You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.”) won’t eventually become YouTube fodder to be rehashed as much as Ballmer’s and HP’s ex-CEO did when the iPhone first arrived to market. Yes, Surface RT and Surface PRO hold that much promise. The future is bright and Microsoft just answered Apple soundly that they are not quite ready to give up the throne in this very much PC world.

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