Surface (2012 tablet)

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Microsoft Surface Logo.png
Surface RT.jpg
The original Surface RT with Touch Cover attached
Product familyMicrosoft Surface
TypeHybrid tablet
Release dateOctober 26, 2012
DiscontinuedJuly 18, 2013[1]
Operating systemWindows RT 8
Upgradable to Windows RT 8.1
System on a chipNvidia Tegra 3
Memory2 GB
Storage32/64 GB
microSDXC card slot
SoundStereo speakers
InputTwo 720p HD LifeCams, front and rear facing
Two Microphones, headset jack, Ambient Light
ConnectivityWi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
Bluetooth 4.0
USB 2.0
HD video out (micro-HDMI)
PowerBuilt-in rechargeable Li-Po 31.5 Wh
24 W power supply
Online servicesWindows Store, OneDrive,, Microsoft Account, Xbox Music, Xbox Live
Dimensions10.81 inches (27.5 cm) (width)
6.77 inches (17.2 cm) (height)
0.37 inches (9.4 mm) (depth)
Mass1.5 pounds (680 g)
SuccessorSurface 2

The first-generation Surface (launched as Surface with Windows RT,[2] later marketed as Surface RT)[3] is a hybrid tablet computer developed and manufactured by Microsoft. Announced in June 2012, it was released in October 2012, and was the first personal computer designed in-house by Microsoft.

Positioned as a competitor to Apple's iPad line, Surface included several distinctive features, including a folding kickstand which allowed the tablet to stand at an angle, and the availability of optional attachable protective covers incorporating a keyboard. Surface served as the launch device for Windows RT, a limited version of Windows 8 designed for devices based on ARM architecture, with the ability to run only Metro-style Windows applications developed for it and distributed through the Windows Store.

Surface was met with mixed reviews. Although praised for its hardware design, accessories, and aspects of its operating system, criticism was directed towards the performance of the device, as well as the limitations of the Windows RT operating system and its application ecosystem. Sales of the Surface were poor, with Microsoft cutting its price worldwide and taking a US$990 million loss in July 2013 as a result. It was succeeded by the Surface 2 in 2013, with the newer Windows RT 8.1, which was also made available for the original Surface. Support for the OS ended on January 10, 2023.[4]


The device was announced at a press-only event in Los Angeles and was the first PC which Microsoft had designed and manufactured in-house.[5] The Surface only supports WiFi for wireless connectivity, with no cellular variant. The tablet went on sale in eight countries - Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Surface Pro was launched later.[6]



The Surface tablet has a display of 1366x768 pixels on a five-point multi-touch touchscreen with Gorilla Glass 2 (LTL106AL01). The device measures 10.81 by 6.77 by 0.37 inches (27.46 cm × 17.20 cm × 0.94 cm) and is made from magnesium. The kickstand, USB port, and a magnetic keyboard interface give the Surface ability to add a wireless mouse, external keyboard, or a thumb drive. There is also a slot for a microSD card to add up to 200 GB.


Surface runs Windows RT, which is preloaded with Windows Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Sports, News, Travel, Finance, Camera, Weather, Reader, SkyDrive, Store, Photos, Skype (no longer supported), Maps, Games, Messaging, Bing, Desktop, and Xbox Music and Xbox Video Windows Store applications, and supports Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote within the Desktop application. Windows RT only allows installing Windows Store applications. Windows RT is compiled entirely for the ARM instruction set architecture.

A major update to Windows RT was launched on October 17, 2013, called Windows RT 8.1. This update brought many improvements to the Surface, such as an overhauled Mail app, more Bing apps like Reading List, and OneDrive (updated from SkyDrive). It also brought support for larger tiles, a help and tips app, Internet Explorer 11, Outlook 2013 RT, changes to PC Settings, lock screen photo slideshow, infinitely re-sizable apps, a Start button, and speed improvements. Later, an update to Windows RT 8.1, dubbed Windows RT 8.1 Update[7] added a search button to the Start Screen, as well as the taskbar on the Modern UI, and a title bar for Modern UI apps.


Surface launched with two accessories, the Type Cover and the Touch Cover. The Touch Cover came in white, black, magenta, red, and cyan, while the Type Cover came in black. Limited edition Touch Covers were released featuring laser-etched artwork on the back. The Touch and Type Covers double as keyboards and magnetically attach to the Surface's "accessory spine".

Later, adapters for micro-HDMI to HDMI [8] and VGA were released.


CNET praised the design of Surface, noting that it " Looked practical without being cold, and just feels like a high-quality device that Microsoft cut few corners to make." The kickstand was also praised for its feel and quality, while both the kickstand and the keyboard cover accessories were also noted for having a "satisfying" clicking sound when engaged or attached. The covers were deemed "essential to getting the complete Surface experience", with the touch cover praised for having a more "spacious" typing area than other tablet keyboard attachments, and for being usable after getting used to its soft feel. The Type Cover was recommended over the Touch Cover due to its higher quality and more conventional key design. Surface's display was praised for its larger size and widescreen aspect ratio over the iPad line but panned for having "muted" color reproduction. While the touchscreen-oriented aspects of the Windows 8 interface were praised for being "elegant", albeit harder to learn than Android or iOS, the Windows RT operating system was criticized for still requiring the use of the mouse-oriented desktop interface to access some applications and settings not accessible from within the "Metro" shell, and for its poor application ecosystem, with Windows Store's state on-launch compared to "a ghost town after the apocalypse." The poor performance of the Surface, especially in comparison to other Tegra 3-based tablets, also led to disapproval. In conclusion, it was felt that "paired with a keyboard cover, the Surface is an excellent Office productivity tool (the best in tablet form) and if your entertainment needs don't go far beyond movies, TV shows, music, and the occasional simple game, you're covered there as well", but that assuming Windows Store would eventually improve its application selection, "both it and the Surface's wonky performance keep a useful productivity device from reaching true tablet greatness."[9]

Sales of the Surface and other Windows RT devices were poor; in July 2013, Microsoft reported a loss of US$900 million due to lackluster sales of the Surface, and cut its price by 30% worldwide.[10][11][12][13][14] Microsoft's price cut did result in a slight increase of market share for the device; by late-August 2013, usage data from the advertising network AdDuplex (which provides advertising services within Windows Store apps) revealed that Surface's share had increased from 6.2 to 9.8%.[15]


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  1. ^ Foley, Mary Jo (18 July 2013). "Microsoft's $900 million Surface RT write-down: How did this happen?". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  2. ^ "Surface tablets start shipping ahead of Windows 8 launch". BBC News. BBC. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  3. ^ Warren, Tom (13 October 2013). "Microsoft admits Surface RT naming caused 'some confusion'". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Microsoft Support Lifecycle". Microsoft Support. Microsoft. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  5. ^ Callaham, John (18 June 2012). "'Microsoft Surface' Windows 8/RT tablets announced". Neowin. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  6. ^ Callaham, John (16 October 2012). "Microsoft Surface to be sold in eight countries". Neowin. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  7. ^ "What's new in Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update?". Microsoft. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Connect Surface to a TV, monitor, or projector". Microsoft. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  9. ^ Franklin, Eric (23 October 2012). "Microsoft Surface review: Innovative tablet stranded in an app desert". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  10. ^ Ingraham, Nathan (18 July 2013). "Microsoft took a $900 million hit on Surface RT this quarter". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  11. ^ Paczkowski, John (18 July 2013). "Microsoft Misses, Takes a $900 Million Charge on Surface RT Stock". All Things Digital. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  12. ^ Warren, Tom (15 July 2013). "Microsoft cuts Surface RT prices by 30 percent worldwide, hopes to boost slow sales". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  13. ^ King, Ian; Bass, Dina (15 March 2013). "Microsoft's Surface Tablet Is Said to Fall Short of Predictions". Bloomberg Business. Bloomberg. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  14. ^ Lowe, Scott (18 July 2013). "Microsoft Lost $900 Million on Surface RT in Q1". Ziff Davis. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  15. ^ Chacos, Brad (26 August 2013). "Surface RT usage skyrockets after steep price cuts". PC World. IDG. Retrieved 28 December 2013.

External links[edit]

Official website

Preceded by
1st generation
Succeeded by