Microsoft announced yesterday the availability and pricing for its "Surface with Windows 8 Pro" tablet.
The Surface Pro will ship in January 2013, which is good news if you're rooting for Microsoft, the tablet underdog.
But that's about all the good news I can muster because these new ubertablets cost a fortune. The Surface Pro is priced at a stunning $899 for the 64GB model and $999 for the 128GB model. (Seriously, who needs a 128GB tablet?!?). Both models include a stylus pen, but neither comes with a Touch or Type cover. That will cost you an extra $120 or $130.
So to get the 64GB Surface Pro – which will presumably be the more popular version– you will have to fork over $1,020 for what is still technically a tablet, but one that's also practically an ultrabook. And it will sell for almost double the price of the iPad, the most popular tablet in the world. That takes balls.
The Surface Pro will be one powerful beast, running a full version of Windows 8 Professional and packing Intel's Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 1920x1080 full-HD resolution display. It will also be fully compatible with all Windows 7 desktop apps.
Sure, those heavy-duty specs may justify the high price of the Surface Pro, but are they a bit excessive for a tablet? Is that really what tablet users want? Microsoft seems determined to create a new tablet audience: Power users who crave ultrabook-like tablets.
The problem is these users don't exist.
According to a Microsoft spokesperson, the pricing and functionality of Surface Pro is competitive with devices that have similar specs and will appeal to people who are interested in ultrabooks.
But Windows 8 ultrabooks, all of which include touch-screen capability, are similar enough to the Surface Pro in look and feel and specs that if someone likes the ultrabook form factor they will probably just, you know, buy an ultrabook.
Tablets aren't really used for intensive computing today; most people aren't editing movies and backing up 50GB of data on tablets.
Less is more when it comes to tablets. They are light-as-a-feather Web surfing and media devices that boot up instantly, provide access to a plethora of apps and media, and let you swiftly tap and swipe as you would on a smartphone The iPad, the iPad Mini, Google's Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire all prove that this model is successful.
Is it time to turn the tablet into an industrial machine with the power of a laptop? Microsoft thinks so, and it needs this to be true because Windows still excels in the enterprise and among enterprise users. So the company designed the Surface Pro tablet to be an enterprise workhorse. But with BYOD (bring your own device) programs in full swing at businesses all over the world, Microsoft may find that an enterprise-specific tablet is not attractive to these types of users, particularly at a $900 price point.
The Microsoft Surface RT, to its credit, was at least closer to what we want from a tablet: a power-efficient, somewhat reasonably priced, ARM-based device that complements a laptop or desktop PC.
The Surface Pro, on the other hand, is built to replace a laptop/ultrabook. If a shift to outright notebook replacement eventually happens, the Surface Pro will look prescient. But there aren't currently any signs pointing that way, and the overpriced Surface Pro is likely to linger in purgatory, at least for the time being.
But Microsoft's biggest challenge with the Surface Pro is loyal tablet users who expect a reasonable price, a user-friendly interface and mobile apps galore. Unfortunately, they won't get any of that with the expensive Surface Pro.