Slate’s Farhad Manjoo really, really likes Microsoft’s recently announced tablet.  He calls it “the iPad rival the tech world desperately needs.”

I love the Surface. And that’s true even though I know very little about it. At a top-secret press event in Los Angeles on Monday, I was allowed to spend only about 90 seconds with Microsoft’s new tablet device. Even that brief time was circumscribed. I was only permitted to touch the device while the machine was powered off. Microsoft representatives were happy to show off the device, but they didn’t let me actually use the new tablet.

Sounds great.

What’s more, much about the Surface remains mysterious. Microsoft won’t tell us its price; it will only say that the cost will be “comparable” to that of other tablets. We don’t know when it will go on sale (the company suggests sometime later this year). We also have no idea whether developers will create cool apps for it, we don’t know if the tablet’s build quality will hold up once Microsoft begins manufacturing it in large quantities, and we don’t know if—like many would-be iPad killers that have been released so far—the Surface will prove to be a buggy mess.

I understand that there’s a desire for a strong iPad competitor in the tech community, but this is crazy.  Microsoft is all in with Windows 8, and I have to give them some credit there.  They are trying something radically different for them by stepping outside their comfort zone and upending the traditional Windows platform.  But to hold a press event to show off a tablet device with no price, no release date, and no true sense of why a developer would want to develop for it feels like a desperate attempt to remain in the headlines while the market runs away from them.

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