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Update at 7:23 p.m. ET. The Surface:
Saying that Microsoft wanted to give its new operating system "its own hardware," CEO Steve Ballmer announced "Surface," Microsoft's foray into the tablet world.
"Microsoft's Intel-based Surface tablet will run Windows 8 Pro, with a thickness of 13.5mm, a weight of 1.9lb, and USB 3.0 support. This particular version will also include magnesium casing and a built-in kickstand, but will ship with either 64GB or 128GB storage. The Intel version will include additional digital ink support through a pen that magnetizes to the body of the tablet, and a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display. Both of Microsoft's Surface tablets feature optional Touch and Type covers."
Update at 7:33 p.m. ET. 'Great For Pros':
"This is a great choice for professionals," said Michael Angiulo, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft, according to The Verge. It weighs less than two pounds and is thinner than 14 mm, but "it's a full PC," he added.
Update at 7:45 p.m. ET. A Video:
Here's a commercial for the product from Microsoft:
Our Original Post Continues:
What will Microsoft unveil today? The buzz has been building since Microsoft sent an event announcement that promised a "major" unveiling at 6:30 p.m. ET. in Los Angeles.
What can it be?
"Speculation about the Los Angeles media event is that the company plans to unveil either a tablet computer or a system that uses an upcoming version of Windows to help people access TV shows and movies across a range of devices.
"A Microsoft-branded tablet wouldn't come as a complete surprise. In April, Microsoft announced a $300 million, 17.6 percent stake in Barnes & Noble's Nook e-book business."
The reports are varied. Quoting unnamed sources, Tech Crunch reports that what's on tap is "a tablet/e-reader built in conjunction with Barnes & Noble is on tap and that it will be entertainment driven."
Tech Crunch adds that it would be "the first non-Xbox device to gain Xbox Live streaming capabilities."
All Things D reports that Microsoft is "set to announce its own brand of tablets."
In her analysis, Ina Fried reminds us that Microsoft has a history of trying its hand at hardware but with the exception of the Xbox, it has not succeeded.
"While it remains to be seen how this product compares to the competition, Microsoft finds itself in position similar to when it introduced the Zune. At that point, the company had been trying to compete against the iPod, with a series of hardware partners using its software.
"This time around, the stakes are much higher. We're no longer talking about a peripheral, but rather the future of computing and the core of Microsoft's business."
We'll keep an eye out on the announcement and update you once we know more.
Update at 7:13 p.m. ET. Event Has Started: