Microsoft’s Surface tablet has a lot of hype to live up to

Microsoft's new tablet Surface is introduced during a press conference in Hollywood, California. (AFP Photo/Joe …You have to tip your hat to Steve Ballmer and the brass at Microsoft.

The hype and anticipation that swirled around yesterday's surprise product announcement was reminiscent of an Apple product announcement by the company's late co-founder. Former CEO Steve Jobs was a veritable master at using secrecy to create speculation, and in the tech world, speculation drives the hype machine.

When Microsoft's Chief Executive Steve Ballmer took the stage to introduce the Surface, Microsoft's in-house built tablet computer that aims to rival the iPad, the world finally learned what all the hype was about. The Surface is a beautiful tablet that's powerful enough to effectively replace your PC; a re-imagining of the tablet that includes a built-in stand and an ultra-thin touch keyboard.

But just as one might analyze the hype surrounding that summer blockbuster everyone is sure to see, tech pundits are left wondering if the Surface will be worth the noise generated by its introduction. How the Surface will affect the market appears to be more intriguing than the tablet itself.

Is the Surface an iPad killer?

"Most certainly not," affirms Peter Pachal in a Mashable blog. "Apple commands a huge portion of today's tablet market, and it's ludicrous to think the Surface will significantly alter that picture (no matter how cool that magnetic stylus is)."

"However, as a long-term bid for growing its tablet presence, Microsoft could have done a lot worse."

Apple currently holds over 60 per cent of the tablet market share, and the previously dubbed "iPad killers" such as the Kindle Fire and the Galaxy Tab failed to put a dent on that figure. As grand as the presentation was, you'd be hard-pressed to find many outside of Microsoft who believe the Surface can usurp the iPad as king of the tablets.

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Microsoft was a little short on the details, but here's how Mashable's Andrea Smith compares the two:

What does the Surface mean for other Windows 8 tablets?

The idea that Microsoft would unveil a product to directly compete with that of its partners seemed very unlikely to many. A slew of hardware manufacturers — including Nokia, Lenovo, Asus and Acer — have already committed to the Windows 8 software for their future tablets.

[ Related: Windows 8 tablet war has manufacturers fighting to be first ]

"We can't imagine that Microsoft's hardware partners are too pleased with this news," shares Mashable's Christina Warren. "Moreover, Microsoft isn't doing a standard Windows 8 tablet implementation — it's creating what it dubs the "premiere" Windows 8 experience. This means top-notch hardware with carefully designed details. It means innovative accessories such as the Touch and Type Covers and the Windows Pro pen."

"A big part of why Microsoft is revealing Surface now — as opposed to at the Windows 8 launch — is likely to avoid overtly offending its partners," reveals  Pachal. "After all, unveiling the Windows 8 tablet right when your partners will also be releasing theirs would be extremely bad form."

So how will this affect the other Windows 8 tablets? We'll have to wait and see how the partnering competition react to yesterday's announcement.

What does this mean for Android tablets?

Microsoft's partners in Lenovo and Nokia may appear to be the most upset, but it's the Google camp that could be fearing for the worst. Though several manufacturers have entered the Android tablet market, it hasn't proven to be very lucrative for many.

"Google's services often directly compete with the hardware maker's, leading to some confusion and a lack of consistency among devices," says Pachal.

"By offering a more consistent experience — as well as a device that can act as your PC — Microsoft's approach with Surface may end up inspiring consumers more than the Android platform. But that's still a big 'if.'"

Here's a first look at the new Microsoft Surface tablet:

Microsoft 'Surface' Tablet: A First LookA look at Microsoft's new "Surface" tablet and case.

(Tablet market share photo: Telecom News Bulletin)

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