Microsoft revealed that it’s limited-time $100 discount on Surface Pro pricing isn’t so limited after all. The discount is now permanent, and Microsoft cut the cost of the Touch keyboard cover as well. The reduced pricing makes the Surface Pro more attractive, but it’s still not enough to significantly sway sales.
The Surface Pro is a solid, well-engineered device. On the surface (no pun intended) it’s a tablet, but inside it’s a full Windows 8 PC. It has an Intel Core i5 processor, and 4GB of RAM. Unlike many tablets—especially the very popular Apple iPad—the Surface Pro has a full-sized USB port, an SD memory card slot, and an HD AV port that can be used to connect via HDMI or DisplayPort to an external monitor with the right adapter.
It has the size, weight, and portability to compete as a tablet, but it runs the full Windows 8 operating system—including all of your traditional Windows software. There are ways to do that in a limited way from an iPad or Android tablet using a remote streaming service like Onlive Desktop, or with an app like Parallels Accessfor the iPad, but those solutions are no match for just running your software directly on your tablet.
As a PC, the Surface Pro is even more unique. It can be used at your desk, connected to a monitor, keyboard, mouse or touchpad, and other peripherals, but it can also be easily taken with you on the go, or used to watch a movie in the living room, or for reading a Kindle book while you’re riding on a bus or train. Try that with your desktop—or even your laptop to some extent.
When you add a Touch or Type cover, the Surface Pro is essentially an ultrabook, and it can compete as such. But, even at the discounted price, it’s not a great deal. A 128GB Surface Pro with a Touch cover still costs $980. A 128GB 11-inch MacBook Air costs only $999.
The MacBook Air uses the latest Intel Core processors—the “Haswell” line—which have much better energy efficiency, and yield exceptional battery life. The MacBook Air can run Windows instead of Mac OS X if you choose, or you can use Mac OS X and still run Windows applications in a virtual Windows using something like Parallels.
I don’t mean to sell the MacBook Air over the Surface Pro, per se. The MacBook Air is just a very poignant illustration—especially considering the false perception by so many that Apple products just cost more. There are also other Windows ultrabooks, tablets, and hybrids that are either cheaper, or have more power, more memory, or better battery life than a Surface Pro.
The discounted Surface Pro is nice, but I still maintain that Microsoft should cut another $100 off the price and throw the Touch cover in for free if it really wants to drive sales.
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Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.