Learning that Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet will cost at least $899, excluding a touch or type cover, it might be a sticker shock at first look, but for most of us this may actually be the Windows 8 device of choice.
The base price of $899 will get you a Windows 8 x86 tablet based on an Intel Core i5 processor, as well as a 10.6-inch display with 1920x1080 that exceeds the 1366x768 pixel resolution of the Surface RT tablet. The Surface Pro will also support pen input.
It's an Ultrabook.
The Surface RT tablet was chastised to be a bit on the slow side to open and run applications, which should be fixed with the Core i5 processor. Take all other hardware specs into account, especially the higher-grade screen, and you have a considerably more powerful machine -- even if that means that your battery time will be cut in half. If you add the $130 type cover, you end up with a $1,030 computer, which is a pretty strong contender in the Ultrabook space. Sure, you could argue that the device isn't quite as pretty as some of the other high-end ultra-books, but as far as flexibility goes, this is about as good as it gets today.
It's a Tablet.
The flexibility, of course, relates to being a tablet. I am personally not a big fan of vertical touch surfaces (like a laptop LCD) and have been pretty disappointed by the flimsy touchscreens on current generation Windows 8 notebooks - which is, by the way, non issue on Surface due to its fixed vertical stand. However, for people like me, touch is really useful on screens that lay flat on a surface, which you can do with this tablet - and use it as a tablet if you want to. If the screen of the Surface Pro is as good as Microsoft says, and if the pen input is compelling for note taking and sketches, the Surface Pro could be a very convincing notebook/tablet combination for your job. As much as we love iPads these, Surface Pro has a good shot to becoming the best platform to bridge the home and business world for today's computing needs.
Let's be realistic. Windows RT has some advantages, but needs time to mature and especially attract applications. Its biggest downside is the fact that you can't run Windows x86 applications; Microsoft will have to make a tremendous investment to attract developers to this platform. x86 Windows comes with its usual downsides and long loading times. But it is the Windows we are used to, and it is the Windows that runs our applications today. It may not have the platform appeal of Google Play or Apple App Store apps yet, but the Windows Store appears to be growing nicely, and let's not forget that HTML5 is cross-platform. Even with hybrid apps that use native code and HTML5 code, it does not take much to predict that the Windows Store will grow nicely over time.
The Bottom Line
It would be wrong to consider the Surface Pro to be an expensive tablet. It should rather be seen as an upscale Ultrabook that has the option of being a tablet being thrown in for free. It is the kind of device we have been waiting for to evolve the idea of Apple's iPad - and it is Microsoft's best effort to showcase the Windows 8 UI yet. Could it be improved? Sure: Let's integrate a Kinect sensor into the screen, please.