What makes the Microsoft Surface tablet different? (poll)

Can Microsoft distinguish itself in the tablet market? It seems to be off to a good start, but proof is in the pudding.

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Despite Microsoft's best efforts on Monday to demonstrate why Surface is different, it's a crowded market out there.

All of the first-tier players like Samsung, Amazon, Sony, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and Motorola (not to mention a Google-branded device that is expected) have already saturated the Android tablet market.

And then there's the iPad, which is simply shorthand for tablet in a lot of consumers' minds and commands most of the market. And has a two-year head start, to boot.

So, it's a tall order for Microsoft and Windows 8.

That said, the rollout of the 10.6-inch (16:9 widescreen HD) Surface tablets on Monday succeeded at the very least in showing that Microsoft has come up with a good idea.

Surface with 3mm cover that functions as a keyboard and trackpad.
Surface with 3mm cover that functions as a keyboard and trackpad. Microsoft

The catch with tablets is the lack of a physical keyboard, which doesn't appeal to some consumers. And keyboard docking solutions to date have typically not been very elegant, with a few exceptions.

Microsoft's 3mm pressure sensitive cover doubles as a keyboard and trackpad and connects to Surface with a "single" magnetic click, according to Microsoft.

And price. It's hard to win either way. Go low and you have to cut corners, strip out features. That ultimately gives the product a bad rap. Go high and, well, the problem is obvious.

Microsoft appears to be leaning toward the higher end of the market, with pricing rumored to start at $599 for RT (ARM chip-based) models. Intel-based versions with 1,920x1,080-pixel displays could run a lot higher.

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