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 Microsoft is finally ready with its iPad challenger, selling the Surface tablet exclusively from its web store in a range of memory options and colors to match Apple, with the unique keyboard cover as an optional extra

Scratching the Surface

Ahead of next week's Windows 8 launch, Microsoft's web store (in the U.S. anyway, no sign of it in Europe) is now taking orders for Microsoft's very own Surface tablets, at prices that are comparable with the latest iPads (if you include the keyboard accessory for the higher-end versions).

While you can pre-order most maker's notebooks, tablets or Ultrabooks, from any store, Microsoft is selling Surface exclusively, for now. UPDATE: The store link has been pulled but should be back as soon as Microsoft can put out an official press release. 

In the Box and In the Cloud

Of course, the Windows RT Marketplace store (the only place you can get apps from) will be a fraction of what Apple's App Store has to offer when it opens for business. But Windows RT will ship with Microsoft Office (a preview version at first and then the full thing on launch) plus the full suite of Microsoft's cloud apps like Outlook.com, SkyDrive and other services will all be natively supported.

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The Surface tablet comes with 2GB of RAM and offers a 10.6-inch HD screen running at 1366x768 resolution, powered by an NVIDIA T30 processor, What you won't get is support for any Windows 7 or older apps, which may leave some users looking for the future Windows 8 powered Surface tablets, or looking upmarket at the Ultrabook models.