When Microsoft’s Surface RT was released a little more than a month ago, one of the things we heard from some people in the tech industry was that they were waiting for the full-fledged Surface with Windows 8 Pro before seriously thinking about buying Microsoft’s new tablet.
Now we have key details on the Surface Pro, with the news yesterday that the pricing will start at $899 for the 64GB version, with the 128GB version going for $999. The signature keyboard covers will sell separately, which means another $120 or $130, roughly, if you want the TouchCover or TypeCover to turn the Surface into something resembling a notebook.
Microsoft’s target with the Surface Pro is the business market — aiming for CIOs who may see the benefits of a getting employees something that feels like a tablet/notebook hybrid rather than buying them a tablet and a notebook separately.
But I’m having a hard time envisioning a significant market for the Surface Pro. At these prices, the primary obstacle, in my view, is the notion that Surface can replace a notebook. The keyboard covers are interesting, and I’ve been using them both extensively with my Surface RT, but they’re just not the same as an actual notebook keyboard for work use on the go.
The existing Surface RT starts at $499 for a 32GB version without a keyboard cover. The biggest difference vs. the Surface Pro is that the Surface RT runs on the ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, which requires less power but doesn’t support legacy Windows applications.
The Surface Pro runs on an Intel Core i5 processor, which means it supports legacy Windows applications but has about half the battery life of the Surface RT. As noted by Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet, that would translate into about four to five hours for the Surface Pro.
Surface Pro is also slightly thicker and heavier — about 2 pounds, compared with 1.5 pounds for the Surface RT. Surface Pro comes with 4GB of RAM (compared with 2GB for the Surface RT) and an included pen as an alternative form of input. (You have to buy a pen separately to use with the Surface RT.) Surface Pro doesn’t come with Office included, whereas Home and Student versions of Word, Excel and other Office apps come with the Surface RT.
Especially when compared to the pricing and specs for some of the new touchscreen Windows 8 ultrabooks, this feels to me like a tough sell for Microsoft out of the gate, particularly when the keyboard covers are an optional accessory, not bundled automatically.
Bottom line, the Surface Pro is a tablet, first and foremost, and not an inexpensive one.