With an uncharacteristic air of mystery, at a premiere Los Angeles photography studio, the folks at Microsoft simultaneously announced a new product and instantly made themselves relevant. There were pages and pages of speculation as to what Steve Ballmer would have up his sleeve leading up to the event. Should Microsoft exploit the Xbox name? Would Barnes and Noble be involved, somehow? All of the evidence pointed one way: would we see a tablet?

What we saw was both incredible and incredibly confusing. The Surface, a name originally attached to the large-touch display product Pixelsense, has been reimagined. With years of research and development, tweaking and redesigning, Microsoft has built itself a contender. However, a contender in which space? Is it a tablet or an ultrabook? The entire image Microsoft was giving off at the event was distinctly Apple-esque, that is, until they made things complicated for themselves in typical Microsoft fashion.

Surface Questions

For the amount of information that actually came out of it, this whole event was a bit overdramatized. Sure, we saw this “thing,” but we know little to nothing about it. There’s no way I was the only person screaming, “HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?,” at engadget’s live blog page for half an hour. More recent updates have shed light on the screen resolution, which is not quite as good as the iPad. A popular starting price for the Surface has been speculated at $599.

Despite all of the unanswered questions about the Surface (and there are many), I was still ready to throw contents of my wallet at my laptop screen in hopes of getting one. I have an indescribable attraction to the type (smart) cover, and a strange appreciation for the over-engineered kickstand. Maybe it’s just my stubborn reluctance to actually try and work with Apple products, but I will definitely be keeping tabs on future Surface updates.

Windows Phone 8

Only two days later, Microsoft was at it again. This time with in a more normal setting, with a more familiar product. In San Francisco, a developers summit where where Windows Phone 8 was formally introduced. The revamped Operating system is showing a great deal of promise. It needs to make a big splash in order to gain Microsoft a foothold in the mobile market.

Windows Phone Summit

Impressive Features

One of the most interesting things Microsoft has managed to do is run Windows RT and Windows 8 on the same kernel. This means that they’ve figured out a way to have the same platform on their phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. For the consumer, this could lead to a higher level of compatibility between devices. Improved hardware requirements to run the operating system will also allow for faster games and native applications.

NFC has made a slow showing in the world of smart phones and Microsoft is aiming to change that. WIth what looks like an improved version of Google Wallet, having another player in near-field mobile payments could encourage more retailers to support the technology. The partnership between Microsoft and Nokia has also led to the integration of the handset maker’s impressive mapping tool.

The Future Phone Market

Even with the dominance of the iPhone and Android platforms, there is still room for others to grow. Especially with the collapse of RIM, Microsoft might have a golden opportunity. The enterprise space is making a push toward a bring your own device philosophy. By promising business friendly security and support, the Windows Phone could be the perfect companion for every corporation. Microsoft already has an extensive, successful history with corporate technology. Combining that with a mobile device could be a recipe for success.

Do you think Microsoft’s new gadgets will succeed? Let us know in the comments.