Surface Pro, Microsoft's Intel Core i5-powered slate that runs Windows 8 Pro, will go on sale on Saturday, Feb. 9, in the United States and Canada. Microsoft's physical and online stores, as well as Staples and Best Buy (in the U.S.), will carry the device.
The software giant also took the opportunity to unveil three limited edition Touch Covers (in red, magenta and cyan) that cost $129.99 each and the new Wedge Touch Mouse, Surface Edition, which sells for $69.95. Microsoft also announced that it is expanding Surface RT distribution to 13 European markets, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Surface Pro will arrive at retail outlets two weeks after the company's initial release estimate. Microsoft originally planned to ship Surface Pro approximately 90 days after Surface RT went on sale.
The company appeared to be on track as of last week when Panos Panay, general manager of Microsoft Surface, was scheduled to inspect the first Surface Pro tablets that rolled off the assembly line. On Jan. 13 he tweeted, "On my way to the factory to check out #Surface Pro coming off the line ... arriving in the coming weeks."
Unlike the company's ARM-based RT iteration of the tablet, Surface Pro has an x86 microarchitecture that enables it to not only to run the full desktop version of Windows, but also an extensive library of Windows software. To lure business users and PC enthusiasts, Microsoft boasts that Surface Pro "can run Windows 8 applications as well as current Windows 7 desktop applications."
Prices start at $899 for a 64GB model and climb to $999 for a version with 128GB of internal storage. It features a 10.6-inch 1,920-by-1,080 high-definition touch-enabled display and can drive an external monitor with resolutions of up to 2,560 by 1,440.
Surface Pro also ships with a stylus, called the Surface Pen, that magnetically snaps to its side. It features Palm Block technology to eliminate accidental touch inputs while writing on the screen.
Surface Pro is an opportunity for Microsoft to recover from the market's tepid response to Surface RT, and to some degree restrain the iPad's infiltration of the enterprise mobility market. If successful, it will also validate Microsoft's controversial decision to graft a touch-enabled, tablet-friendly user interface onto the traditional desktop experience for its Windows 8 operating system.
Compared with Surface RT, trade-offs include a slightly thicker profile, heavier internals and reduced battery life. Despite these drawbacks, the industry is cautiously optimistic about Surface Pro's chances.
Early Surface Pro reviews are generally positive. Putting power users' fears to rest, Techradar's Mary Branscombe wrote, "Surface Pro certainly doesn't feel like a laptop crammed into the body of a tablet—although it gives you the power of one." The display "looks beautiful, with true deep blacks and vivid, saturated" colors, she added, while also bestowing kudos on the Surface Pen.
Jon Phillips of PC World was similarly impressed. "When attached to an external monitor, the Surface Pro really does become a full PC—and in this mode, the tablet itself can function as a drawing pad for full-fledged graphics applications, thanks to its included pen," he wrote.