Windows-phone-7-8-windows-phone-7This week, Microsoft did the unthinkable: It struck out on its own and introduced Microsoft-designed and -built tablet hardware, the Surface. It was a move that surprised many (including some Windows PC hardware partners), and got people speculating about Microsoft’s other big move this week: unveiling Windows Phone 8.

WinphoneheaderThe decision to not bring Windows Phone 8 over to existing handsets was based on hardware, Microsoft says. Windows Phone 8 now supports tech such as multiple core processors, higher screen resolutions, and NFC –- things that existing phones simply don’t have the hardware for.

Surface-gray-600We know it will come in two versions – one running Windows RT and one running Windows 8 Pro – but we don’t know about the pricing of either model, nor do we know when the Surface will become available.

Microsoft-surface-tablet-640Everything about Surface—from the shroud of mystery around the Los Angeles launch event to the presentation’s focus on hardware and design—is out of character for Microsoft. The tablet (which could be viewed as a full-blown tablet or a hybrid tablet PC) is ultra-thin, with a 10.6-inch screen and USB, micro SD and micro HD video connectivity.

SurfacehandsonthumbThe demonstrators gave us their spiel — here’s the Touch Cover, here’s how it was made. Feel the quality. Admire the precision engineering in this piece of casing. At each station we got to hold the device for just long enough to say we had held it. We deployed the kickstand. We got to swipe though an app, but never to the home screen.

KeyboardcaseMuch like Apple’s Smart Cover does with the iPad, Touch Cover connects to Surface via magnets on the device’s side. When opened up, the inside of the 3mm cover has a full multi-touch keyboard with trackpad. During its presentation, Microsoft focused on how book-like Surface will feel with the case on.

Microsoft-surface-tablet-600“It was always clear that what our software could do would require us to push hardware, sometimes where our partners hadn’t envisioned,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the event. “Much like Windows 1 needed the mouse, we wanted to give Windows 8 its own hardware.”

Nokia-lumia900-600At the moment, Apple and Google don’t appear to have much to worry about, but the beleaguered RIM does since project starts for Windows Phone are outpacing those for BlackBerry by a four-to-one margin. That, at least, is by the reckoning of Flurry Analytics.

Microsoft-logo-on-wallWhat Microsoft will announce is anyone’s guess. The latest rumors suggest, however, that the company will unveil the first product it has developed in partnership with Barnes & Noble.

Xbox-720Notable features include Xbox SmartGlass, Blu-ray support, 3D glasses, cloud-based gaming and an improved Kinect system. If the Xbox 720 described in the document is true — Microsoft’s next-generation entertainment console could change the future of gaming.