It aims to challenge the iPad with a device that can run standard applications such as its own Office programs and Photoshop.
However other hardware makers are likely to feel aggrieved by the news as Microsoft can offer a competitive price as it doesn't need to pay itself a licence for the Windows 8 software which other manufacturers will have to do.
The devices have 10.6 inch (26.9cm) displays, built-in kickstands and are housed in magnesium cases — which the company described as the first of their kind.
The ARM-based tablets are 9.3mm (0.4 inches) thick — slightly less than the iPad — and run the Windows RT version of the new system. The Verge reported that the chipset will be built by Nvidia.
The versions using Intel's x86 technology run Windows 8 Pro and are 13.5mm (0.5 inches) thick.
A variety of accompanying covers can be attached using built-in magnets. They double as keyboards with trackpads. One version is flat while the other offers keys that can be depressed.
The devices are also designed to work with a pen accessory using what the firm dubbed "digital ink". When the stylus is held close to the screen of the tablet it ignores touch-input from the users' hands.