Microsoft will ship Surface Pro in late January, reports say

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As expected, Microsoft's Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablet is on track to launch at the end of January, according to several reports.

Microsoft hasn't announced an exact release date for the Surface Pro. The company has only said that the Intel-based tablet would launch “about 90 days” after the arrival of the Surface with Windows RT, which launched last October 26. By that timing, the Surface Pro would launch on January 26.

Employees at several Microsoft Stores around the country confirmed the late January arrival, though only one store specifically mentioned January 26, according to CNet. A report from The Verge cited its own sources who said to expect a late January launch, “despite rumors of a CES timeframe.” However, Softpedia reported that the Surface with Windows 8 Pro may launch on January 29, citing “sources familiar with the matter.”

To put all this another way, it doesn't seem that Microsoft is pushing out the Surface with Windows 8 Pro ahead of schedule, despite talk of slow sales for the Windows RT version. Microsoft has tried to boost Surface sales by expanding distribution outside of its own stores, to retailers such as Best Buy. It's unclear whether the Surface with Windows 8 Pro will be available at third-party retailers at launch.

Sorting the Surfaces

The Surface with Windows 8 Pro runs on an Intel Core i5 processor, so it has full support for legacy desktop software, unlike Surface with Windows RT, which can install only modern-style apps from Microsoft's digital storefront. The Surface Pro also has a 1080p display, comes with double the basic storage capacity at 64 GB, and includes a stylus.

However, it also has some drawbacks compared to the Surface RT: It's about 0.15 inches thicker and a half-pound heavier, and will have roughly half the battery life. It's also much more expensive, priced at $899 for the tablet alone, compared to $499 for the Surface RT. Touch Covers and Type Covers will be sold separately.

At this point, the big dilemma for prospective Surface Pro buyers might be the looming launch of Intel's Haswell architecture, which promises much better battery life for Ultrabooks and hybrid devices. Although it's unclear when Haswell-based processors will be ready—a May or June launch is expected—Intel is also planning to provide lower-power Ivy Bridge processors as a stopgap until Haswell arrives. The promise of Windows 8 hybrids with tablet-like battery life could be reason enough to keep waiting.

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