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The Microsoft Surface tablet weighs 1.5lbs and features a 10.6 inch Gorilla Glass display with edges bevelled at 22 degrees and a 9.33mm magnesium case with USB 2.0 and DisplayPort for high resolution displays.

The touchscreen computers will be powered by its upcoming Windows 8 system and contain a choice of an Intel or ARM-based processor.

This allows Microsoft to challenge Apple in the tablet market with a device that can run standard applications such as its own Office programs and Photoshop.  However this also leads Microsoft into competition with other manufacturers planning to release tablets designed for Windows 8.

The company’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, said he had wanted to give the software “its own companion hardware”. The devices built-in kickstands and are housed in magnesium cases – which the company described as the first of their kind.

The ARM-based tablets are 9.3mm (0.4 inches) thick – slightly less than the iPad – and run the Windows RT version of the new system. Third-party developers must rewrite programs from scratch to run on the system’s Metro interface to work on these devices.

The versions using Intel’s x86 technology run Windows 8 Pro and are 13.5mm (0.5 inches) thick. These can run Metro and an updated version of the “classic” desktop meaning they can use software designed for earlier editions of Windows, although some programs will need to be updated to be compatible.

Other features of the Surface include pen input with digital ink sampling at 600 dpi and a magnetic cover similar to the iPad’s, but with a full multitouch keyboard and trackpad.

Microsoft have said the ARM-based version will be available with either 32GB or 64GB of storage and would be priced at a similar rate to other tablets using the same type of processor built by other firms. They added that the Intel-based versions would be offered with either 64GB or 128GB of storage and would have price tags comparable to ultrabook laptops.

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