Microsoft has unveiled a Surface tablet computer as the technology titan steps in with its own hardware to take on Apple's market-ruling iPads.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer described the iPad challenger as a tablet that "works and plays" when he showed it off at a press event in Los Angeles.
PHOTOS: Microsoft's new Surface tablet
The Surface tablet hardware will be built in-house and will run on a mobile-friendly version of the Windows 8 operating system.
It will boast a 10.6-inch (26.9 centimetre) high-definition screen and will be available with 32 or 64 gigabytes of memory, according to Microsoft.
Surface will feature a built-in "kickstand" allowing it to stand up on a desktop for watching movies.
Microsoft also revealed a 3mm thick clip-on Type Cover with an integrated keyboard, making the tablet capable of replacing a laptop.
Other features include a full-size USB port, dual Wi-Fi antenna and trackpad.
There were spontaneous bursts of applause and whoops from tech journalists and bloggers as key features of the new tablet were revealed.
The device has a slightly bigger screen than the iPad, with a wide-screen movie-style 16:9 format.
There was also one nerve-jangling moment for Windows Live Division chief Steven Sinofsky when the first Surface model he was demonstrating failed to respond to a touch command. To his relief, a replacement worked immediately.
"It feels natural in your hands," he told the audience at the invite-only unveiling.
Microsoft did not specify when the tablet would be available but it is likely to be timed with the release of Windows 8 software later this year.
Ballmer said the tablet would be "priced to compete" and would be "comparable to tablets and ultrabooks".
Microsoft has built its massive empire by primarily specialising in software, leaving the job of making full-scale computers to partners.
The company has built and sold hardware such as the Xbox gaming console, but has never directly entered into competition with partners who sell full-OS devices.
The shift to building its own PC hardware to run its Windows operating system has been seen as a major strategic turning point for the Redmond-based company.
"This product marks a crucial pivot in Microsoft's product strategy," Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said.
"It puts the focus on the consumer rather than the enterprise," she continued in a blog post. "And it lets Microsoft compete with vertically-integrated Apple on more even ground."
Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told the New York Times the move was "clearly a referendum on Microsoft's partners".
"Microsoft felt they could not rely on others to deliver on their vision for Windows 8 in mobile computing," Gartenberg told the newspaper.
Surface is also the name of table and poster-sized touch screen computers that Microsoft has pitched to the business market for use in restaurants, shops, bars and other venues.
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