Will Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablets be competition for Ultrabooks?

Summary:Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be priced "on par with Ultrabook-class PCs." Is it a viable alternative to Intel's laptop platform?

While Microsoft's Surface tablet concept is intriguing enough that it has at least a chance at being a consumer success, its odds may be better with Surface for Windows 8 Pro, which looks like it can challenge laptops in the portable productivity market.

Surface for Windows 8 Pro is where Wintel joins the tablet game. Microsoft showed off a model using an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, which to date has not even seemed like it was in play for slate usage. It doubles the amount of built-in storage (either 64GB or 128GB) over Surface for Windows RT, and upgrades the connectivity options: USB 3.0 port instead of USB 2.0, Mini DisplayPort instead of Micro HD video port, and microSDXC support in addition to standard microSD capability.

You also a get a full HD ClearType display, especially useful given that Surface is built with a 16:9 aspect ratio. With a beefier processor, Surface for Windows 8 Pro gets bigger (13.5mm thick instead of 9.3mm) and heavier, but is still slim enough to fit into the touch cover. Microsoft will also throw in a stylus, which will be useful for enterprise applications. Curiously, the Surface spec sheet does not mention that Pro buyers get a version of Office included, whereas Office Home & Student 2013 RT comes pre-installed on Surface for Windows RT.

That's a detail worth knowing, because Microsoft has said that Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be priced "on par with Ultrabook-class PCs" when it becomes available (a couple of months after Surface for Windows RT). Considering that most Ultrabooks still don't cost anywhere near the price of a base iPad 3 model, Ultrabooks may in fact be the biggest competition for Microsoft's pro slate. With its touch typepad, Surface expects you to get things done in a way that's more like a typical PC and less like a game-playing tablet.

The "professionalization" of tablets is shaping up to be a choice between Apple's vision -- new apps that are mostly built from scratch for the iPad ecosystem and large user base -- and Microsoft's -- new apps that are based around Windows and attractive to users familiar with Windows from their daily jobs and home PCs. There appears to be plenty of room for both models to thrive, but it will be fascinating to see if many large enterprises flock to Surface for Windows Pro for its familiarity (and IT friendliness) in lieu of both iPads (already popular with consumers and possibly many of their employees) and new laptops.

How well do you think Surface for Windows 8 Pro will compete in the enterprise world against iPads and even laptops? Would you think of buying one instead of an Ultrabook? Let us know in the Comments section below. More Microsoft Surface Coverage from ZDNet:

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, Windows

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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