Microsoft Surface Pro Release Date Teased On Twitter: Tablets 'Coming Off' The Production Line

 @LisaEadicicco
on January 17 2013 12:09 PM

At the end of the month, Microsoft will launch its first ever full-blown PC tablet hybrid, the Surface Pro. When the Surface for Windows RT initially debuted in October, the PC software maker vowed that the higher-end version would come 90 days later.

Now, Microsoft seems to be keeping good on that promise. A batch of Surface Pro tablets reportedly came off the production line earlier this week on Tuesday.

“On my way to the factory to check out Surface Pro coming off the line … arriving in the coming weeks,” Panos Panay, Microsoft’s general manager of Surface products said via Twitter on Tuesday.

The Surface Pro will be available in two versions upon launch. Pricing will start at $899 for the 64GB version and $999 for the 128GB edition. This is a vast price jump from its predecessor, which begins at $499 for the 32GB variant and $699 for the 64GB. In turn, tablet shoppers will be getting more for their money with the Pro edition.

The forthcoming Microsoft tablet boasts an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, which is the fastest Core Series chip found in Windows 8 laptops. It also features a Clear Type display with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. Most importantly, Surface Pro owners will be getting the full version of Windows 8 Pro. Unlike the Surface for Windows RT, the upcoming Surface will be able to run all Windows Store and legacy Windows applications in addition to running the same operating system as most Windows 8 PCs. The previously launched tablet, however, runs on software called Windows RT which is a mobile modified edition of the OS that uses a more limited app store.

We’ll be interested to see how the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s first tablet-laptop crossbreed is received in stores. The original Surface didn’t fare so well in the mobile market—analysts recently estimated that only one million units were shipped last quarter. This is a jump from previous predictions that indicated about half that number of Surface tablets would ship, but it still pales in comparison to Apple’s iPad sales. The company is slated to report is sales when it posts it fourth quarter earnings on Jan. 23, but an expert has said that Apple may have sold 24 million units of its iPad.

This isn’t surprising considering Apple is a tablet industry veteran, but enthusiasm over the Surface Pro could be just what Microsoft needs to kick off 2013. The sheer fact that it runs the full version of Windows 8 could prove to be an alluring feature, and some enterprise audiences already view the tablet as an attractive option.

German business software maker SAP plans to purchase Surface Pro tablets for its employees, Reuters reported on Thursday.

“The hybrid model is very compelling for a lot of users,” Oliver Bussmann, SAP’s Chief Information Officer, told Reuters. “The iPad is not replacing the laptop. It’s hard to create content. That’s the niche that Microsoft is going after. The Surface can fill that gap.”

While Microsoft’s new tablet may be targeting business users with its features and design, the company reportedly announced earlier this month that the Surface Pro will not come preloaded with its Office suite. In response to a question from technology news blog and forum Neowin, Microsoft said that it does not plan to roll out the Surface with this software.

General PC sales fell for the first time last year since 2001, but the prominence of these fresh hybrid-style devices could bring enthusiasm back to the portable computer market.

“People used to be able to just show up at the party and do well just because the market was going up,” Lisa Su, senior vice president at Advanced Micro Devices, said to Reuters. “It’s harder now. You can’t just show up at the party. You have to innovate and have something special.”

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