Microsoft announced the new Surface tablet Monday at a press event in Los Angeles, launching a pointed broadside at Apple’s market-share monster the iPad. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described the new device as a “companion hardware innovation” for Windows 8. “We see a tablet designed the way Windows is designed. A tablet that’s a great PC. A PC that’s a great tablet,” added Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.

The Microsoft team showed off two versions of the Surface: One running Windows RT (i.e. Windows’ as-yet-unreleased tablet-based OS), the other running the as-yet-unreleased Windows 8 Pro. Both will feature a 10.6-inch rectangle display; a built-in “kickstand”; and, most notably, a magnetically-locking 3mm thick cover that also serves as an integrated multi-touch keyboard. (A slightly thicker keyboard that allows for clicking buttons will also be available.) The RT version includes an USB 2.0 input, is 9.3 mm thick, and weighs just under 1.5 pounds. The Pro version is slightly thicker and heavier, with a USB 3.0 input, and is intended to operate as a full PC — i.e. more of a rival to UltraBooks, and Apple’s MacBook Air, than consumer tablets.

Maddeningly, Microsoft did not provide specific price or release date info, noting only that the price for Surface RT will be “comparable” with rival tablets, and the price for the Pro will be “comparable” with rival UltraBooks. The RT will be released at the same time as Windows 8, with the Pro coming “about three months later.” But since Windows 8 itself has no firm release date, it’s unclear whether consumers will be able to get their hands on the Surface this year.

The event itself was oddly shrouded in secrecy. Journalists were only informed of the location for the event — the spacious Milk Studios in Hollywood — six hours before it began.

Check back on later for a hands-on snap judgment of the Microsoft Surface.