With yesterday's (Monday's) debut of the new Microsoft Surface tablet, the company suddenly and unexpectedly took direct aim at the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad.
At the event, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled a device with a 10.6-inch widescreen display and a pressure-sensitive cover that also serves as a keyboard. As one would expect, the Surface tablet runs Microsoft's next generation operating system, Windows 8.
Oddly, Ballmer left out several key details, such as the exact date Surface will go on sale and how much it will cost.
What's clear is that Microsoft recognizes it has fallen behind in the mobile market, and that it didn't trust any of its traditional PC-building partners to produce a compelling Windows 8 tablet.
The surprise announcement of the Surface tablet, preceded by an invitation just days before that gave no details, succeeded in generating an Apple-like buzz.
"If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the compliments from Microsoft poured down like a torrential storm on Apple last night," analyst Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets wrote in a research note today. "At the same time, this event indicates to us that Microsoft is still searching for its own identity in the post-PC era, something that has come naturally for Apple with the rise of the mobile Internet."