Microsoft Surface TabletIs Microsoft trying to be Apple?

Long a maker of software and happy to license it out to others, Microsoft has tried before to fight Apple on their profitable turf and failed. Zune anyone?

This week Microsoft re-entered the hardware battle with the latest incarnation of their Surface project. An idea that had been previously displayed as a large interactive tabletop was re-introduced as a notebook replacement.

The new Surface will come in two models, a light version that will run Windows RT featuring Metro apps. Metro is an interface that is slick, and tile based. Currently on Windows Phone 7, it is a beautiful interface that rethinks the desktop. The Windows 8 Pro edition will feel more like a laptop. It will be a complete Windows experience.

The physical aspects of Surface have it feeling like a laptop run over by a steamroller. Break off the screen from your 10″ laptop, and put an iPhone case that doubles as a keyboard (complete with trackpad) on it, and you have your Surface.

Will it work? Critics are split. Some are still waiting to hear more about the specs, software, and release date while others are saying if this had been unveiled at an Apple press event there would have been a stampede to buy it. Gizmodo called Microsoft “the most exciting company in tech.”

The good news is, Microsoft is trying. They seem ready to make this a truly 3 way fight. Microsoft, Google, and Apple are each developing their own vertical markets. Microsoft has also started the branded store route. Apple is about to open their 23rd Canadian retail outlet, Microsoft will cut the ribbon on their first in Canada later this year, when Surface will be available exclusively at those stores.

APP OF THE WEEK: Free Flight from Parrot
This is, quite possibly, the coolest remote control device you will ever see or use. The AR Drone from Parrot is a remote control flying machine that can take video, pictures, and fly obstacle courses and do dogfights. I first tried the AR Drone at CES in 2011 and was blown away.

The new edition, operated by a local wifi network from the drone with your iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Android phone takes HD video, and can fly as high as 50 metres. The app may be free, but the drone is $329.

There’s a learning curve here, but if you’re handy with remote control devices you could catch on. The problem is in the battery life of the device. You’ll only get 15 minutes of flight before waiting 90 mins to recharge the battery. So a few extra juice packs is a must. The CEO of Parrot says the idea is to take video games outdoors and that it does.

Here’s the video of the segment:

Here’s the video shot by the AR Drone that didnt make it into the segment:

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