Microsoft Surface Pro And RT Were Secrets To Everybody: How Windows Tablets Were Born

The Surface Pro and RT are historic endeavors for Microsoft. They mark the first time that Redmond has entered the consumer hardware market, and they represent Microsoft's official challenge to Apple's popular iPad.

And no one was supposed to know about them.

The Surface Pro and RT were successfully kept under lock and key until Microsoft was ready to show them off to the world. Before entering the conceptual and prototyping phases, Microsoft had two goals for Surface development, codenamed Georgetown (RT) and Georgetown X (Pro): It had to show off Windows 8 and ship when the new operating system was ready, and it had to be a complete secret to any and all outsiders.

On Monday, Microsoft's Panos Panay spoke to The Verge about the birth of the Surface and showcased never-before-seen prototypes of the tablet.  "The goal was, you gotta bring Windows 8 to life,"  he said.

Since Microsoft traditionally relies on OEMs to produce computers featuring its software, it had to keep Surface development completely under wraps. It didn't want third parties to find out, as the news could disrupt relationships.

From the beginning, though, Microsoft wanted to make a tablet. Panay didn't say whether or not the iPad was already available when his team began conceptualizing the Surface, but he did say, "When we started and kind of all the visions were coming together, it was clear we were gonna go make a tablet."

One of the main features of the Surface was supposed to be productivity. Panay said that the goal was to make a tablet that let you perform a lot more functions than anything else on the market.

"We're Microsoft, let's be proud of that, let's be proud that we help people get stuff done," he said.

Surface Pro development started three months after the Surface RT, which helps explain the delay in bringing the product to retailers. Panay said Microsoft is continuing to improve the Surface line-up, and that the team is hard at work at the next generations (yes, plural) of the tablet.

Even pessimistic analysts don't put Microsoft down."Demand is higher than we initially intended for Pro to be, no doubt," said Panay. "The people that aren't using the products certainly have opinions, but the people using them love them and I think that's what's most important to us right now."

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