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Microsoft Surface Tablet: 8 Big Questions Remain

Microsoft's new Surface tablet could be a personal computing game changer, but so far the company has yet to fill in some important details.
5. Ditto, Touch Cover. Microsoft also claims to have made a breakthrough in keyboard technology with its Touch Cover for Surface. Available in a rainbow of colors, the 3-millimeter thick pad "senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch-type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard," according to Microsoft.

Again, this is unproven technology that will need to be vetted by everyday use. Even then, with the wide array of third-party keypads available for the iPad and Android tablets, it's questionable how big a differentiator this really is.

6. Xbox compatibility. Many observers believed that Microsoft was set to unveil a tablet that carried the Xbox brand. That would have made sense given that the gaming console represents the company's one--and really only--truly successful venture into hardware.

Still, there are a lot of ways Surface can still benefit from the Xbox ecosystem. To what extent it will offer Xbox experiences such as Kinect, SmartGlass, and Xbox Live remains to be seen, but bet on some or all of those things to Surface.

7. What about the OEMs? So if Microsoft is now pitching its own hardware around Windows 8, where does that leave longtime partners like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Acer? These and other PC makers have confirmed plans for Windows 8 tablets, but is Microsoft giving itself a window of exclusivity in terms of launch date? Will Microsoft try to undercut its partners on pricing, a move that could quickly turn them into rivals?

Microsoft is still counting on these vendors to churn out mass-market Windows PCs, so alienating them could be risky. Conversely, it could be argued that the hardware makers now need Microsoft more than it needs them.

8. What happens to, um, Microsoft Surface? The odd thing about Microsoft's decision to call its new tablet the Surface is that the company already has a product called Surface. It's not a big seller, but it does exist. The original Microsoft Surface is a Windows-powered, coffee-table-sized display that's aimed at the retail, hospitality, and entertainment industries.

By giving its new product the same name as an existing product, Microsoft has proven that its reputation for confusing brand strategies is well-earned.

The answers to these and other questions about the Microsoft Surface, which promises to be a game changer in the personal computing market, will surely emerge over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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