Microsoft's next tablet, Surface with Windows 8 Pro, will launch in early 2013 with a starting price of $899, a hefty premium over the Windows RT version which went on sale in late October for $499.
Clearly hoping to ride the BYOD wave and make inroads in the business tablet market, Microsoft is outfitting the Surface Pro with an x86 processor from Intel and its touch-enabled, Windows 8 (non-RT) operating system. The software giant turned hardware maker is banking that enterprises, despite their appetite for tablets in recent years, can't shake their addiction to legacy desktop applications.
"Surface with Windows 8 Pro will run your current Windows 7 desktop applications – it's a full PC AND a tablet," wrote Panos Panay, General Manager of Microsoft Surface, in a company blog post.
Come January, the Surface Pro will go on sale carrying an $899 price tag for the 64 GB version. The 128 GB model will cost $999. It carries forward some of the RT version's most distinctive features, including the VaporMg casing, kickstand and support for the company's keyboard covers. WiFi network connectivity is provided by the same 2x2 MIMO antenna setup.
An Intel Core i5 processor powers the Surface Pro. Unlike the ARM-based processor found in Surface RT, the x86 chip will allow the Pro model to run software developed for Windows 7.
Other differences include a full-sized USB 3.0 port (versus USB 2.0 for Surface RT) and a Mini DisplayPort that can push visuals to a 2560 x 1440 screen (versus HDMI). The built-in 10.6-inch, 16:9 touchscreen gets a bump in resolution, from 1366 x 768 pixels to 1920 x 1080 for full HD. It will also ship with a stylus and Palm Block, a palm-sensing technology that accepts pen-based input while ignoring unintentional inputs caused by resting a hand on the touchscreen.
Accommodating Intel's micro-architecture results a thicker tablet. Surface Pro is 13.5 mm thick versus the Surface RT's svelte 9.39 mm profile. It's heavier too, weighing a little less than 2 lbs. compared to 1.5 lbs. for Surface RT.
But those aren't the only compromises the company has to make to deliver an x86-powered, business-friendly tablet.
A tweet sent by the Surface team yesterday revealed that Surface Pro "will have approximately half the battery life of Surface RT."
Surface RT owners can expect to get about 9 hours of use from a single charge. Surface Pro hopefuls are looking at 4.5 hours between charges, less than some Windows 8 ultrabooks and convertible tablets from PC makers like Dell.
Surface Pro also lacks a bundled suite of Office applications, meaning that businesses will have to pony up for a separate license of Microsoft's productivity software. Currently, Surface RT ships with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview, which includes touch-friendly versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.