Redmond is getting ready to go to war, tablet war against iOS and Android — with the looming launch of its Windows 8-powered Surface slate, due to get the final reveal on October 25. Yesterday Microsoft ramped up the marketing blitz with a new Windows 8 commercial. Today it’s pushed the button on Surface banner ads (h/t to the Verge for spotting). Now the Wall Street Journal says Microsoft has ordered between three and five million Surface tablets from its Asian component suppliers for Q4 — ramping up to similar order volumes as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 tablets.
The paper cites two people familiar with the situation confirming that mass manufacturing of the Surface tablets began earlier this month. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for an official comment and
will update with any response Microsoft responded with ‘no comment’.
The Surface tablet has a 10.6 inch display, is 9.3mm thick and includes a built-in kickstand so it can be paired with a detachable keyboard cover to take on the form factor of a laptop. Price and availability for the device have not yet been announced but the large format tablet looks to be lining up against the iPad at the high end of the slate spectrum, rather than the lower end alongside smaller form factor slates such as Google’s affordable Nexus 7 (and a possible iPad mini).
Apple’s iPad tablet has done well in the traditional Microsoft stronghold of the enterprise — while Windows-powered tablet hardware has struggled to compete against the iPad. Microsoft’s decision to get back into the hardware-making business with the Surface tablet underlines how important the mobile category has become as desktop PC sales continue to decline.
Update: Microsoft briefly outted Surface prices today. The Surface looks like it will start at $499 for an entry-level 32GB version without the Touch Cover with integrated touch-sensitive keyboard, while a top of the line 64GB version with the touch cover included costs $699.