Interested in a tablet, but haven't fallen in love with the Apple iPad, BlackBerry PlayBook, or any Android tab? You’re in luck! There's a new player in town. The first commercial PC designed for retail sale with Windows 8 by Microsoft has been announced. Microsoft has made some touchscreen products for commercial retailers before, but it has never designed and sold a product for traditional retail customers. Early whispers say that the tablet may even compete with Apple’s iPad, which has held a firm grip on the tablet market since its introduction.

Microsoft Surface Tablet Running Windows 8Of course, unlike Apple, Microsoft will still allow other companies to run Windows 8 on hardware that wasn’t designed by Microsoft. So if you love Windows but aren’t willing to try Microsoft hardware, don’t worry – you won’t lose your operating system.

Microsoft has stepped into the tablet market with the Surface tablet, a tablet computer designed to compete with both iPads and light notebooks. Microsoft has spent years perfecting the design, according to CNN Money's David Goldman, which shows in intriguing extras like tapered screen edges and USB 3 connectivity.

Since there are two kinds of Surface tablets, let’s break down the differences and see what customers get in each version:

Windows RT Surface Tablet

  • 32GB or 64GB memory available
  • Microchips from ARM, which run 95 percent of smartphones and tablets
  • 9.3 mm wide
  • 1.5 pounds

Windows 8 Surface Tablet

  • 64GB or 128GB memory available
  • Runs on the new Ivy Bridge Intel chips
  • 13.5mm wide
  • 1.9 pounds
  • USB 3 connectivity

The Windows 8 Surface tablets will be available about three months after the first version is released. The new Ivy Bridge Intel chips, the larger configuration, and the extra USB connection ability can justify the additional cost for the Windows 8 tablets. Both Surface devices, of course, come with front and rear facing cameras and the high-definition screen.

The Windows RT Surface tablet seems like it’s meant to function more as a tablet, while the Windows 8 version can replace a laptop with its significantly higher processing power. Consumers can ultimately base their purchase on how much processing power is needed in their device. If the tablet is mostly for convenience on-the-go, saving money and getting a lighter device with the Windows RT Surface tablet is a no brainer. If it’s being used as a laptop and needs lots of processing power, the Ivy Bridge Intel chips can provide the needed oomph.

The case of both models of Surface is made of tough vapor-deposited magnesium that Goldman said was rugged, after Microsoft Windows Surface Tablet Sideviewhe briefly handled one at the introduction. It features a sturdy kickstand that clicks into place with an audible snap and a 3-millimeter thick, magnet-connected cover that can be flipped down to function as both a keyboard and a touchpad mouse. Microsoft has said the cover is able to distinguish between resting fingers and typing fingers, something glass-based keyboards on tablets are currently unable to achieve. The kickstand, supposedly, props the tablet at the exact right angle for video viewing, which will be a treat for media buffs who have a difficult time finding the right angle for their tablets.

The Surface tablet running Windows RT will sell for about $499. The Windows 8 version will sell for about the same price as Microsoft Ultrabooks – around $1000. The almost-double price difference between the models will surely have some opting for the earlier Windows RT version, if only to try the hardware before committing to the higher price on the Windows 8 “Surface.”

Tags: developing for windows 8 tablet, developing for windows surface, microsoft surface development, Microsoft Surface tablets announced, microsoft tablet surface, surface tablet applications development