Microsoft's iPad competitor, Surface, is coming

Microsoft on Monday unveiled a nice looking tablet computer called Surface, or rather, a pair of devices that are targeting the tablet market currently dominated by Apple and Android.

Surface looks pretty cool. I like the thin tactile keyboard that also doubles as a screen cover. You get the impression Microsoft beat Apple to the punch by adding a keyboard with this design, which Apple first introduced with its own Smart Cover a couple years back.

Microsoft is positioning the device as one that's good for both consumption and creation. The knock against iPads, Kindle Fires, and other Android tablets is that they're mainly useful for watching videos and playing games and fiddling with apps, but not hard-core work or business uses. (I don't necessarily buy that argument.)

But Microsoft will have its powerhouse Office suite of apps available on Surface, which no doubt will appeal to productivity freaks and businesses who are totally wedded to the Microsoft ecosystem.

You'll be able to run Windows 8 apps and buy multimedia content (music, etc.) from the Windows Store.

The one potential negative, in my view: Microsoft announced two tablets, which have some different hardware and run different versions of Windows. Do consumers want and need such a choice? I suppose it's good that Microsoft is offering that choice, because Apple doesn't with its iPads. They're all iOS, Apple's mobile operating system.

Engadget has a nice critique -- pluses and minuses -- of Microsoft's Surface launch. Take a look.

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