Microsoft unveils the Surface tablet

A new "family" of PCs for Windows – and the iPad's latest challenger.

Mean machines: the Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft has unveiled Surface – a family of PCs for Windows that the tech giant no doubt hopes will dislodge Apple from the tablet top seat. But will it?

The new touchscreen computers boast full-sized USB ports and a 16:9 aspect ratio, the industry standard for high-definition viewing. They will be available in two models: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT and another with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro.

Surface for Windows RT will be released with the general availability of Windows 8; the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about three months later. Both will be sold at Microsoft Stores in the US, as well as select online Microsoft Stores.

Retail prices will be announced closer to availability and are expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC.

Last year, Apple sold more than 40 million iPads, which amounts to two-thirds of all tablets sold worldwide. With Amazon's Kindle offering only marginal competition, it remains to be seen whether Microsoft's first ever range of personal computers will fare any better.