Microsoft revealed yesterday that it would be entering the competitive tablet computer market, unveiling a new product expected to rival the hugely popular iPad.

Microsoft unveils its new tablet computer, the Surface

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Launched at a press conference in LA, the 'Surface', which boasts a 10.6-inch screen and USB port, will compete directly with Apple's market-leading tablet and is just one of "a whole new family of devices" currently in development at Microsoft.

Weighing less than 1.5 pounds and at just 9.3mm thick (reportedly 0.1mm thinner than the new iPad), the Surface comes with a number of features expected to appeal to the business customer.

Designed specifically to work with Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Windows 8 software, potentially making it easier for PC users to switch between devices, it is equipped with a built-in keyboard and kickstand, giving it a distinctly laptop feel.

According to the Daily Mail, president of Microsoft's Windows division Steven Sinofsky described the new gadget as "a tablet that's a great PC - a PC that's a great tablet."

How much the Surface will cost is as yet unknown, though Microsoft insist it the price will be 'comparable' with the Ultrabook.

It is expected to be available when Windows 8 is released later this year and a slightly thicker version that works with Windows 8 Pro will also hit the market.

Whether the familiarity of the Windows operating system will lure buyers away from Apple's rapidly-selling device remains to be seen.

What do you think? Would you buy a Surface over an iPad? Leave your comments below...