As the world's most successful software company, Microsoft has tried its hand at a fair few things over the past couple of decades, but it has never shown much interest in getting involved on the hardware side of things - largely because the few attempts it has made have failed spectacularly.
Well, that has just changed thanks to the announcement of the Microsoft Surface, an entertainment-focused Windows 8 tablet with a rich vein of Xbox flavouring running through it.
If you're thinking the Surface name sounds familiar, it's the same name Microsoft used for its experimental touch table technology it showed off a few years ago at CES.
But the 2012 evolution of the name is attached to a far more mainstream concept – a 10.6in tablet designed to spearhead the Windows 8 tablet assault over the coming months.
And it seems Microsoft is happy to make it a multi-fronted assault, too. The Surface has been announced in both ARM and Intel form, running Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro respectively.
As for the physical device itself, it's suitably skinny at 9.3mm thin, but otherwise is a fairly standard-looking piece of tablet hardware, although seeing the well-known Windows logo below the screen does take a bit of getting used to.
The Surface features a built-in kick stand, while the 10.6in display is fronted by the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 2 and supports both finger- and stylus-based touch input.
On the software side of things, it'll come as no surprise to hear that the Surface will be packed with all the top Microsoft apps, including Xbox Live, while it will also arrive with a native Netflix app pre-loaded.
The RT-based model will launch in 32GB and 64GB variants, while the Windows 8 Pro model will give you the choice of 64GB and 128GB inside. All models will feature USB 2.0 and HDMI ports, along with both front- and rear-facing cameras.
Despite the ground-breaking move into the hardware mainstream, Microsoft's Panos Panay – who unveiled the Surface on stage at a Microsoft event in Los Angeles last night – insists the hardware is intended mainly as a vehicle to show off Windows 8 in its best light – much like the Nexus line has been used to showcase Android over the past few years.
“This was built as a stage for Windows 8,” Panay said. “It was important that we have hardware fade to the background so Windows 8 can come to the surface.”
As for when the Surface (and no doubt an endless succession of similarly painful puns) will be, er, surfacing, Microsoft hasn't told us yet, saying only that it will be priced “competitively” when it does.