Richard Waters Microsoft attempt at an iPad-killer: the Surface

Microsoft has come up with its answer to the iPad: a magnesium-encased tablet sporting a colourful cover that doubles as a keyboard.

The FT’s Matt Garrahan was on hand at the launch event in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon for the great unveiling of the Surface. Read our live coverage of the event as it unfolded, after the break.

5.03pm Steve Ballmer reappears to wrap up the presentation. No question here about what Microsoft thinks will sell this device: the sheer sexiness of its magnesium casing and innovative, bright covers. There’s nothing at all in this presentation about the apps or content that it will bring to the machines, that’s all for later (though it’s the apps that will ultimately determine the device’s fate). For now, this has been a very deliberate attempt to out-Apple Apple.

4.59pm No pricing details yet. The RT version, at 32GB and 64GB, will be priced like other ARM tablets (ie iPad). The Intel one will be comparable to an ultrabook.

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4.52pm There’s something very Apple-esque about the way Microsoft is talking up the hardware design breakthroughs it had to come up with to pack in the computing power and usability it thought the Surface needed without sacrificing simplicity or ease of use. There’s the kickstand, for instance, which might have destroyed the seamlessness of the design. There’s also a cooling vent that runs around the entire perimeter of the machine to deal with the heat from Intel’s core processors (an echo, there, of the all-round metal band Apple came up with as an antenna for iPhone 4.)

4.41pm A Windows RT version of the Surface (one running on ARM processors) is coming with the “general availability” of Windows 8, which is expected in October or November of this year. A version running on Intel processors will be out 90 days after that.

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4.38pm Some of Microsoft’s claims for the device: The magnesium case is made with the same process used in luxury watches. The cover/keyboard (which comes in “vibrant colors”) is a “step forward in human-computer interface” that will make it possible to touch-type much faster than with an on-screen keyboard.

4.34pm The full details are already up on Microsoft’s website here.

4.31pm A couple of hardware innovations: the Surface tablet has a built-in stand and a exceedingly thin cover that doubles up as a touch-sensitive keyboard.

4.28pm Some specs: at 576 grams, the claimed weight is less than the iPad at652 grams. 9.3mm thickness is less than the 9.4 of the iPad. Easy to see what Microsoft had in its sights when it came up with this.

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4.24 And it’s called… Surface. Really. (But if you were a Microsoft fan-boy, you would realise that this is the name the company put on the table-top-sized, touch-sensitive screens it came up with a few years ago.)

4.22pm PDT Windows 8 is going to get its own set of hardware devices, he says. (Nothing slow or suspense-inducing about the build-up here: it feels like he can’t wait to show this thing.)

4.19pm PDT Ballmer says that making both hardware and software means the company can come up with better experiences – like Xbox, which has increasingly been front and centre in Microsoft’s recent efforts to persuade the world that it really “gets it” as a consumer company.

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4.15pm PDT No question where this event is heading. Ballmer says Windows is the “heart and soul” of Microsoft, with more than 1bn PCs in use.

4.10pm PDT OK, things are really getting going now – Steve Ballmer has taken the stage.

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4.oopm PDT / Midnight BST. We’re expecting the event to get underway any minute now. At least there are things to keep you occupied while waiting for this kind of show in LA.

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