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Can Microsoft’s New Surface Tablet Threaten the iPad’s Dominance?

On Monday, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) revealed its new Windows Surface tablet.

As Microsoft’s first major foray into the tablet space, the announcement was a pretty big deal. But how does it measure up to the competition (i.e. – the iPad)?

Let’s take a look…

Hardware: First, it’s worth noting that the hardware was actually made by Microsoft, a task the company usually leaves to its manufacturing partners.

And it didn’t disappoint.

The tablet is solidly constructed using liquid metal casing – a vapor-deposited magnesium the company is calling VaporMg (pronounced vapor mag).

The display is 10.6 inches, or a half-inch larger than the iPad’s. At 9.3 mm, it’s just a hair thinner than Apple’s latest tablet. And while it’s the first tablet to include dual Wi-Fi antennas (giving it better reception than any tablet in existence today), not much else was said regarding processor speeds and other internal components. But reports from those at the event indicate that it’s a rather speedy machine.

Design: Something else that’s great about the Surface tablet is that the designers were hell-bent on allowing the hardware to fade into the background. Meaning you can forget that it’s even there, making it so the “surface” is all you notice. You dig?

The extra TLC was worth it, too, as those who were able to handle the device were impressed. As Gizmodo’s Mat Honan says, “The lines are gorgeous, and it’s a well-balanced device that you’ll be able to hold for extended sessions. It is, certainly, easier to hang onto than any of the three generations of iPads to date.”

The company even spent several minutes discussing the design chops that went into the device’s kickstand.

That seems like a strange thing to harp on, but if you’ve ever tried to prop up your iPad on a pile of books or against the wall, you know why having this feature can be helpful. And it’s certainly the best kickstand implementation I’ve seen.

Dual Markets: Microsoft understands that fighting Apple on the consumer front alone might be difficult. So it’s making sure it pleases its core enterprise users with the announcement, as well.

You see, the company’s marketing two different Surface models: the Windows RT tablet for consumers and the Windows 8 Pro tablet for professionals. The Pro version is essentially a full PC, and the specifications “rival those of the finest Ultrabooks that have ever been announced,” according to the company.

In short, the tablet comes locked and loaded with some promising and novel features. Promising specs or not, though, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the original iPad came out two years ago. And it’s going to be tough to steal the tablet crown from Apple this late in the game.

Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, explained the company’s reasoning for the delay, “We took the time to really get Surface and Windows 8 right. To do something that was really different and really special.”

Huh… So that means you could have come out with a tablet when Apple did, you just chose not to?

I’m not buying that.

With that said, I’m convinced Microsoft accomplished one of Ballmer’s stated goals: It made something that’s different from what’s currently available. Hopefully, for Microsoft’s sake, being unique is enough to make a dent in this highly competitive market.

Do you think the tablet’s strong enough to make a splash? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Google+.

Good investing,

Justin Fritz

Justin Fritz

, Executive Editor

View More By Justin Fritz