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Preview: The Microsoft Surface Tablet

You hold a tablet in your hands, you work your fingers across the screen. Everything about a tablet should invite you to touch it, because that's how you operate it. Making and marketing a tablet in ways that say "Hands off!" is like trying to sell steak by showing how it can be used to treat black eyes. Sure, that's useful on rare occasion, but it's not why people drool at the marbled ribeyes in the cooler at Whole Foods.

Dig beneath the surface, and things get weirder still. The no-touch tablet even comes in two form factors, for two different markets. There's the little one, about the same thickness as an iPad, with a low-power ARM processor inside. Then there's a significantly thicker version, with a full-fledged (and power-hungry and hot) Intel i5 CPU. So you have one model designed for people who want a tablet that thinks it's a laptop, and another model for people who want a tablet that might as well be a laptop.

Then there are the things missing from Microsoft's sales pitch. I'll list them:

When you can buy one.

How much it will cost.

How long the battery will last.

The screen resolution.

Those are some pretty big holes, so let's try to fill them.