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October 26, 2012 – The mega midnight launch of Microsoft Surface RT in New York City (Photos)

Microsoft Surface RT
(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Although Microsoft had announced the original Surface (running the new Windows RT OS) ten years ago today, the device did not ship until October 26, 2012, and that was also the same night Windows 8 was released.

For the first time since previous Xbox launches and even the release of Windows 95, Microsoft had a big midnight launch for Surface and Windows 8 right in bustling midtown Manhattan.

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

At the time, I was living nearby. Although Microsoft wasn’t talking to our site officially, I went down like any other fan interested in the company’s supposed answer to the iPad. I grabbed my camera, hopped on a train, and waited in line like everyone else.

The queue for the Microsoft Store was long, but luckily the weather was cooperative and not too cold. The store allowed the crowd to enter at midnight and see Microsoft Surface in person. If they wanted, they could buy it and the Touch Cover on the spot; many did.

The long queue of people waiting to see Surface RT in 2012. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

On that night, Microsoft and Surface were the stars of the show. The store filled up, and the person who led the development of Surface was there in person — Panos Panay. Not only was he there to personally oversee the launch, but he spoke with customers, showed off the hardware, and, yes, even autographed some hardware and boxes.

Like many there, I grabbed a Surface RT and a cyan Touch Cover. Cyan was popular at the time due to the Nokia Lumia 800 being released one year earlier and the newer Lumia 900 in March. 

It was a snapping combo that I adored.

2012 was the time before website preorders, so Microsoft had a lot of Surfaces in stock. Indeed, it infamously had too many available. It would rear its ugly head when the company announced a massive $900 million write-down nine months later due to not selling enough Surface RTs.

Despite the public setback, Microsoft continued with Surface launching the Surface 2 (RT) and Surface Pro 2 one year later. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But for us who were there, it was an exciting and memorable night and likely the only time we’ll see another midnight launch for Microsoft hardware.

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.