The battle of Microsoft Surface versus Apple iPad just got more interesting. Microsoft’s Surface for Windows 8 RT launches Friday and Apple tried to take wind out of their sails with an announcement today. Apple shocked the world and many of their loyal customers today when they announced the expected iPad Mini and the unexpected iPad with Retina Display. As stated, the iPad Mini has been expected for months, but what people didn’t see coming was a new full-sized iPad.

The reason people didn’t see the new iPad coming is because Apple released their third generation iPad just seven months ago in March. To this point Apple had been releasing new iPads every year in March like clockwork, so of course the Apple customers who just upgraded to the 3rd generation are probably pretty upset that they no longer have the coolest tablet in the coffee shop.

Why would Apple release a new iPad nearly six months ahead of schedule? Well I think it is clear why, to compete with the Surface and probably Google’s 10-inch Android based Nexus tablet set to be announced next week. If Apple rushing the new iPad isn’t a sign that Microsoft is doing something right with the Surface and Windows 8 RT, then I don’t know what is.

If you’ll remember, Microsoft shocked the tech world in June when they announced the Surface. Until that point no one would have ever dreamt that Microsoft would be getting in to the hardware business, so I think it is safe to say that engineers at Apple have probably been working non-stop for the past several months to try and steal Microsoft’s thunder.

Now some people may say that Apple was just releasing the iPad Mini, so why not update the iPad at the same time? I don’t think that is the case. With the release of the 4th generation iPad, Apple is throwing their early adopters under the bus. Microsoft has no interest in joining the 7” tablet market as it is already a crowded market with Amazon and Google, so why update the iPad if not to compete with the Surface and Nexus 10”?

There is a slight chance that Microsoft’s hardware partners may release 7” devices, but don’t hold your breath, because 7” tablets are deemed as consumption devices. There is a reason Google and Amazon sell their small tablets so cheap, because they believe that they’ll make up the lost hardware revenue from purchases in their app, music and movie marketplaces. Microsoft 3rd party hardware vendors simply have no way to generate that supplemental revenue.

So now that Apple has announced the 4th generation iPad with Retina Display can the Surface for Windows 8 RT stay relevant? Let’s take a look at the technical specifications for comparison. I’ll be using the base model of both devices in the comparison.

Microsoft Surface versus Apple iPad
Surface iPad
Model Surface for Windows 8 RT iPad 4th Generation (Wi-Fi)
Price $499 $499
Size 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37 in 9.5 x 7.31 x .37 in
Weight 1.5lbs (680 g) 1.44 lbs (652 g)
OS Windows 8 RT Apple iOS 6
Processor nVidia Tegra T30 Apple A6X
CPU Cores Quad Dual
Memory 2GB 1GB
Storage 32GB 16GB
Screen Size 10.6 in 9.7 in
Resolution 1366 x 768 px 2048 x 1536 px
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
Camera (rear) 720p 1080p
Camera (front) 720p 720p
Sensors Ambient Light Sensor Ambient Light Sensor
Accelerometer Accelerometer
Gyroscope Gyroscope
Compass Compass
Ports Stereo Headphone Stereo Headphone
Magnetic power adapter Lightning power adapter
USB 2.0
microSDXC (up to 64GB)
HD video port
CoverPort
Stand Yes No
Cover Touch Cover Keyboard Smart Cover
Type Cover Keyboard

I believe in the hardware department that the Surface does more than stand toe to toe with the newest iPad, it holds it’s own and even sets itself apart. Double the storage size, the addition of the USB port, the HD video out, kick stand, Touch Cover, Type Cover and especially the microSDXC card slot that with support for up to 64GB of additional memory allows the Surface to more than hold it’s own against even the updated iPad. What are your thoughts?

More to come on this tomorrow.