The Microsoft Surface is no minor thing to review, especially when you consider the stakes for this product. The tablet / laptop hybrid — which was announced at a surprise event in Los Angeles back in June — is not just a unique product in the market, it's also the first of its kind for Microsoft. The company's foray into designing and building its own hardware is not exactly unheard of, but competing directly with partners on PCs certainly is. Adding fuel to an already-crackling fire, Microsoft is making two distinct versions of the Surface available: the $499 (and up) Surface with Windows RT, which runs a scaled back version of Windows for ARM chipsets, and the yet-to-be-released Surface with Windows 8 Pro, a full-on, Intel-based Windows machine with all the power you'd expect from a modern laptop. I've been tasked with reviewing the former, a product which competes in both price and functionality with the iPad and higher-end Android tablets.

The device itself is an interesting new addition to a crowded market. Though Windows RT touts a desktop environment which looks and feels very similar to Windows 7, the OS doesn't allow for legacy Windows applications to be run or installed, save for the Office suite and a desktop version of Internet Explorer 10. Furthermore, new apps must be written for the tiled environment of Windows 8 — the new Windows Phone-influenced interface which seemingly defines Microsoft's future.

So what to make of this strange hybrid? Is it the next logical step in computing — a transmutable slab which offers the best of the past and the present — or is it something else? A half-step, a feint, a compromise? Can you really have it all, as Microsoft suggests, or is the Surface trying to go in too many directions at once?