Microsoft Surface: Definitely an iPad Killer, but it isn’t!

Months ago I’ve presented a seminar on Microsoft Surface. When I heard about the Microsoft’s big event depicting a BIG announcement, I was so keen to know what it was all about. And there I hear it’s a Surface, again! I was numb for a while wondering what was BIG in it, and then I searched for a picture of same and found no resemblance to the Surface once I knew. Instead it was an iPad killer, or should I say iPad murderer, certainly it will kick some ass for sure.

Moreover, the tabletop computing platform formerly known as “Microsoft Surface” was “rebranded” to Microsoft PixelSense, Now here is a wiki extract no what Surface actually sounds like.

Microsoft Surface is a line of tablet computers designed and marketed by Microsoft. The Surface will be available in two versions, one that runs Windows RT and one that runs Windows 8 operating systems. Microsoft has announced that different versions will be available featuring ARM and Intel CPUs and the display is a 10.6″, 16:9 widescreen HD Display (RT version), or Full HD Display (Pro version). The product was announced by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at a Los Angeles event on June 18, 2012, at Milk Studios. As of June 19, 2012, no pricing or release date is available.

The Microsoft Surface line features VaporMg (pronounced as Vapor Mag), the molded magnesium casing that houses Surface’s components paired with a PVD finish, which is a manufacturing process that produces a durable finish. VaporMg allows magnesium to be melted down and molded to the details needed for Surface. Also included in both Surface models are a USB port, a micro-SD slot, and a magnetic strip to attach accessories such as the ‘Touch Cover’ and ‘Type Cover’. There are also two cameras, front-facing and rear-facing. The front-facing camera will be angled at 22 degrees to allow proper framing of another person while the “kickstand” is in use.

For the CPUs, the Surface with Windows RT will use an Nvidia ARM CPU. The Windows 8 Pro Surface will utilize an “Ivy Bridge” Core i5 quad core chip like the chips in current Windows laptops.

The Surface device demoed in the Microsoft Surface Events had a new connection port with 5 pins. This was acknowledged as a magnetic charging connector during Microsoft’s presentation event by Steve Sinofsky.

Microsoft will offer two keyboard covers for Surface: Touch Cover and Type Cover. Both, when folded up, serve as protective covers that connect to the Surface via a magnetic connector. When opened, the covers are keyboards. The Touch Cover is 3 mm in thickness and has a touch-sensitive keyboard. The Type Cover is thicker and includes a more traditional keyboard. Both also include a multitouch touchpad.

No shipping/availability date for the surface has been announced.

Microsoft has stated that “suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.”

It’s uncertain that Microsoft refused to answer about the availability and pricing of the product. But again if those details are out already before its commercial launch, it might give Apple and Google much time to undercut Surface. At least for now it’s a killer.

High resolution images and an introduction video of Microsoft Surface can be downloaded from here.


I Love Metro; ‘A Design Language’

Hearing Metro in the perspective of language for the first time? Well, take a look at the UI of latest Microsoft product. Yeah that’s Metro and I just love it! Here’s what a design language is;

A design language is an overarching scheme or style that guides the design of a complement of products or architectural settings. Designers wishing to give their suite of products a unique but consistent look and feel define a design language for it, which can describe choices for design aspects such as materials, color schemes, shapes, patterns, textures, or layouts. They then follow the scheme in the design of each object in the suite.

In automobiles, the design language is often in the grille design. For instance, many BMW vehicles share a design language, including front-end styling consisting of a split kidney and four circular headlights. Some manufacturers have appropriated design language cues from rival firms.

Metro is an internal code name for a typography-based design language created by Microsoft, originally for use in Windows Phone 7. Early uses of the Metro principles began as early as Microsoft Encarta 95 and MSN 2.0,and later evolved into Windows Media Center and Zune. Later the principles of Metro were included in Windows Phone, Microsoft’s website, the Xbox 360 dashboard update, and Windows 8. A key design principle of Metro is better focus on the content of applications, relying more on typography and less on graphics.

“Metro” is based on the design principles of classic Swiss graphic design. Early glimpses of this style could be seen in Windows Media Center for Windows XP Media Center Edition, which favored text as the primary form of navigation. This interface carried over into later iterations of Media Center. In 2006, Zune refreshed its interface using these Metro principles. Microsoft designers decided to redesign the interface and with more focus on clean typography and less on UI chrome. The Zune Desktop Client was also redesigned with an emphasis on typography and clean design that was different from the Zune’s previous Portable Media Center based UI. Flat colored “live tiles” were introduced into the Metro design language during the early Windows Phone’s studies. Microsoft has begun integrating these elements of the Metro design language into its other products, with direct influence being seen in newer versions of Windows Live Messenger and Live Mesh.

Microsoft’s design team says that the Metro UI is partly inspired by signs commonly found at public transport systems, for instance on the King County Metro transit system, which serves the Seattle area where Microsoft is headquartered. Metro places emphasis on good typography and has large text that catches the eye. Microsoft says that Metro is designed to be “sleek, quick, modern” and a “refresh” from the icon-based interfaces of Windows, Android, and iOS. Not only Microsoft the whole tech world says the same.

All instances use fonts based on the Segoe font family designed by Steve Matteson at Agfa Monotype and licensed to Microsoft. For the Zune, Microsoft created a custom version called Zegoe UI, and for Windows Phone, Microsoft created the “Segoe WP” font family. The fonts differ only in minor details.

Response to Metro has been generally positive. Engadget said, “Microsoft continues its push towards big, big typography here, providing a sophisticated, neatly designed layout that’s almost as functional as it is attractive.” CNET complimented the Metro design, saying, “It’s a bit more daring and informal than the tight, sterile icon grids and Rolodex menus of the iPhone and iPod Touch.”

The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDEA) awarded Windows Phone, which uses Metro, the “People’s Choice Design” gold award as well as the “Best in Show” award. Isabel Ancona, the User Experience Consultant at IDEA, explained why Windows Phone won this award and explains the user experience of Metro:

The Metro design language was designed specifically to consolidate groups of common tasks to speed up usage. This is accomplished by excluding superfluous graphics and instead relying on the actual content to also function as the main UI. The resulting interfaces favor larger hubs over smaller buttons and often feature laterally scrolling canvases. Page titles are usually large and consequently also take advantage of lateral scrolling.

Animation plays a large part, with transitions, and user interactions such as presses or swipes recommended to always be acknowledged by some form of natural animation or motion. This is intended to give the user the impression that the UI is “alive” and responsive, with “an added sense of depth.”