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Microsoft can't catch Apple? That's what they said about PlayStation...

OPINION: Tech Radar's Patrick Goss thinks Surface will finally offer some true competition for the iPad

With all the talk of Apple and Google, it's all too easy to forget just how influential Microsoft is in the tech world; but as it proved to gamers with the Xbox, the US giant is perfectly capable of pulling something special out of the bag.

The Windows 8-supported Microsoft Surface tablet is massive news, not least because it shows that the company is prepared to risk upsetting its hardware partners by making its own kit.

In the gaming world this isn't as big a deal - Microsoft's Xbox has been a huge hit and the games console becoming one of its most successful offerings. But in the land of the PC (albeit the emerging world of tablets) this move represents a big change of direction.

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CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that Microsoft wanted to make its own kit because its regular partners could not produce the kind of tablet it wanted to showcase Windows 8. Not something you would imagine the likes of Dell, HP and even Samsung will be especially pleased about.

But I think it's an exciting turn of events. Microsoft has had its hardware misses of late - the Zune media player being an obvious example - but anyone who has played with Kinect or the original Microsoft Surface table or even an Xbox 360 will realise that this is a company that can take on the best and win.

When it decided to take on PlayStation nobody gave the Microsoft a chance but, after the original showed promise, the 360 became a serious competitor.

For every Sony in the gaming world, there's an Apple in the tablet market. And frankly, this is an even bigger ask, not least because of the presence of a third competitor in Google's Android platform. Make no mistake, nobody is about to accuse Android of spiralling like Sega.

But somebody needs to offer up more serious competition to the iPad if Apple are to be kept in check and, although it is having to work hard to get any purchase in the phone market, Microsoft can lean on years of PC heritage in the tablet world.

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Businesses trust Microsoft, and that may well make a huge difference when it comes to hitting the critical mass needed to make a successful tablet.

And when you hit that tipping point in terms of sales then the consumer will not only take notice but will actively seek Windows tablets out, just as they have with PCs for years.

Infamous former Apple CEO John Sculley (the man who fell out with Steve Jobs) suggested that the tablet world only really had two players: the iPad and Samsung (running Android).

So having a valid option from Microsoft is guaranteed to provide an interesting counterpoint in the burgeoning world of tablets.

From a gaming perspective, a Windows 8 Microsoft Surface tab is also a good opportunity. Microsoft is well aware that it has lost good grace with PC gamers over the last decade, but the next-gen operating system was always going to bring a new focus - with the Xbox branding front and centre.

That means potential investment in the PC as a gaming platform once more not just in casual games but also more hardcore offerings, although you may have to wait a while for the Core i5 Microsoft Surface until you see a Windows 8 tab that actually appeals to gamers.

In the meantime, we can be sure that, success or failure Microsoft Surface will be a game changer, forcing Apple and Google to ramp up their own tablet offerings and, whisper it, perhaps even offering some true competition for the iPad.

Hit the link for more coverage and insight on Microsoft Surface from Tech Radar.

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