After much speculation, Microsoft has decided to take on Apple's iPad with the launch of its Surface tablet.
Unlike the iPad, the device has a built-in keyboard with a trackpad. It also offers USB and micro SD card slots as well as a 10.6 inch HD display and will come in two models with 64GB or 128 GB of storage. Microsoft had been an early proponent of tablets in the early 2000s but fell way behind Apple in the mobile space in recent years and the new device marks a major effort by the company to get back into one of the fastest growing categories of consumer electronics.
If successful, the launch will also pose new challenges for TV channels and content providers who are already struggling with the heavy costs of create apps for different operating systems.
While Apple maintains a huge lead in the tablet business with its iPads and competing Android tablet devices have struggled to gain much market share, Microsoft has some strengths that could help it offer Apple some serious competition.
In the last year, it has developed a large content eco-system around its X-box Live offerings that could provide users of the new tablet with a large amount of content. Apple's huge library of apps and content has been one of its key competitive advantages over Google's Android devices.
With the up-coming launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is also working to more closely integrate its offerings for PC, gaming consoles and mobile devices. Offering a tablet that uses its Windows 8 operating system that is compatible with a widely used workplace software could also be a plus in gaining traction in the corporate business market, where Apple's iPad has done particularly well.
No details were available on when the tablets would hit stores or exact pricing. But company executives at a Hollywood event launching the Surface tablet noted that prices would similar to comparable tablets already on the market.