Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Pro tablet may come with different hardware and software than its predecessor, the Surface RT, but the Redmond, Wash., company seems to be following a similar launch pattern for its newest Windows 8 offering. Microsoft is planning to herald in its new tablet-laptop hybrid at a special launch event in Best Buy the night before its official release date.
On Friday, Feb. 8, Microsoft will be holding an exclusive event for select guests to commemorate the Surface Pro’s launch. After this reception, the formal launch will take place just before midnight at the Best Buy in New York City’s Union Square. Microsoft’s guests will be the first to get their hands on the new Windows 8 tablet, but only at this specific Best Buy location in New York City. Microsoft announced no other plans to release the Surface Pro in any other Best Buy locations on Friday.
The company’s general manager of the Surface team, Panos Panay, will be at the Union Square event along with other members of the Windows team, according to CNET who saw a copy of the invitation. The special launch event is not for press, but only for Microsoft’s exclusive guests and is invitation only.
When the PC-software maker launched its Surface for Windows RT tablet in October, it welcomed the first Microsoft-branded tablet into the market at its own pop-up store in Times Square. This was one of the company’s many temporary retail locations that remained open during the holiday season to make it easier for users to buy the Surface and other Microsoft products.
Many fans and critics speculated that Microsoft would release its higher-end Surface tablet at the end of January, but earlier this month the company officially announced that it will debut on Feb. 9. This is just a stretch past the “90 day” waiting period after the Surface for Windows RT launch that Microsoft had previously promised. Although this release date is only about 10 days away, the Redmond, Wash.-based company has yet to announce when pre-orders will roll out. Microsoft has refused to comment on Surface Pro presales at this time, but we’re expecting to hear more about this in the coming days.
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Although launching a tablet the night before its official debut isn’t new for Microsoft, this is the first time the company will hold a major product launch at Best Buy. In fact, the company only began selling its Surface for Windows RT at the electronics retail giant in December.
“The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see,” Panay said in a statement following the announcement. “We’ve increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase the Surface.”
The company continued to say that it plans to expand this in-store “presence” even further as time goes on. Prior to launching at Best Buy, the Surface was only available in Microsoft’s few retail locations and through its website.
“Our plan has been to expand the retail presence for the Surface after the first of every year,” Steve Schueler, corporate vice president for Microsoft's retail sales and marketing, said in a statement in December. “Based on interest from retailers, we are giving them the option to carry Surface with Windows RT even earlier.”
Brokerage firm Detwiler Fenton attributed some of the Surface RT’s poor reception to its limited retail availability, and now Microsoft seems to be addressing that notion at launch with the Surface Pro.
Announced alongside its previous Surface, the Pro will come with the complete Windows 8 operating system, a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, and a much heftier price tag. The Pro starts at $899, while the Surface for Windows RT begins at $499. This is almost twice the cost of the original Surface, but the Pro does boast more PC functionality than its predecessor.
The Surface Pro has gotten some fairly impressive reviews thus far, but Microsoft has fessed up to a few crucial shortcomings. The company recently admitted that Windows 8 eats up a whopping 45GB of storage space, leaving only 83GB of usable storage on the 128GB version and 23GB on the 64GB version. Prior to this, Microsoft also revealed that the Surface Pro will only have half the battery life of the Surface for Windows RT, which means the Surface Pro will only be able to clock roughly four hours of life per full charge.