Surface Pro tablet arrives in early February

The Microsoft Surface Pro tablet will go on sale February 9th. The Surface Pro runs a full version of Windows 8 and can support desktop and legacy programs.

The Microsoft Surface Pro tablet will be available starting February 9th. The Surface Pro has an Intel Core i5 processor, a 10.6-inch screen, and can be used with a keyboard cover or a stylus.

When the Microsoft Surface came out last year, there was a fair bit of confusion about what, exactly, it could and couldn’t do. Microsoft hyped the tablet as one of the first devices running the Windows 8 operating system -- but the Surface runs Windows RT, a slimmed-down version of Windows 8. Even though the Surface can run full-fledged versions of Microsoft Office and a few other apps, it isn’t compatible with older Windows programs.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Lots of people felt that the distinction between Windows RT and Windows 8 didn’t make sense, especially since Windows 8 was specifically designed to work equally well on both tablets and computers. Microsoft promised that a full Windows 8 version of the Surface would be coming soon -- and after more than half a year of silence, we finally have a release date: the Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro, as it’s formally known, will hit stores in the US and Canada on February 9th.

The Surface Pro is faster as well as a little bigger than the regular Surface tablet. It sports a 10.6-inch display and an Intel Core i5 processor, and comes in two models: a 64GB version for $899, or a 128GB version for $999. That’s a $200 price increase over the Surface RT, but the Pro is a faster machine -- and the big upshot is that it can run any program that works on a desktop, as well as apps from the Microsoft Store.

The Surface Pro also works with the “Touch Cover” and “Type Cover,” clever cases that double as full keyboards. The Touch Cover is thinner and spill-resistant, but uses pressure sensors in place of traditional keyboard keys. The Type Cover (shown in the photo above) incorporates mechanical keys and behaves more like a laptop keyboard. (It’s worth adding that the Surface Pro doesn’t come with either keyboard, and getting one will set you back about $120 for the Touch Cover and $130 for the Type Cover.) If you need even more input options, the Surface Pro comes with a pen for drawing or writing notes by hand.

The Surface Pro might be coming just in time: in spite of a big marketing push from Microsoft, and strong early indicators, the Surface hasn’t been selling too well -- just one million tablets over the holidays, by one estimate, compared with three million iPads and iPad Minis during the same period. It’s too soon to predict how well the Surface Pro will sell, but the fact that it runs all Windows applications (even older ones) might help ease customers’ concerns.

What do you think about the Surface Pro? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For more tech news, follow Jeff on Twitter@jeffwardbailey.

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