Microsoft Surface RT vs. Surface Pro: Only one is really Windows

The ARM-based Surface RT tablet has solicited yawns from consumers so far, but the Intel-based Surface Pro with Windows 8 may appeal to IT.

While Windows administrators have little use for Microsoft's Surface RT in the enterprise, the upcoming Surface Pro may prove to be a viable alternative to Apple's iPad for companies that rely on tablets.

Microsoft is due to announce general availability of the professional version of its tablet, the Surface Pro, this month. The Surface Pro is built on an Intel Core i5 CPU, and runs Windows 8, unlike the earlier Surface RT, which uses an ARM processor and runs Windows RT.

It's a full-featured, enterprise-ready tablet.

Rob Enderle,
principal analyst, Enderle Group

That means the newMicrosoft Surface Pro will run legacy Windows applications, something the Surface RT can't do. Along with other features, such as Windows 8's ability to be managed with group policies and join Active Directory domains, the Surface Pro is a better fit for enterprise IT use, according to users and analysts.

"[The] Surface Pro is Windows 8. The problem with Surface RT is it's not [Windows]," said Jack Gold, president of analyst firm J. Gold Associates, LLC. in Northborough, Mass.

With Windows application support, the Surface Pro may appeal to Windows shops such as Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., which manages hundreds of Windows-based tablets from Fujitsu today. The IT staff hadn't considered Surface RT devices because most of the applications the hospital needs to run on tablets are written for legacy Windows PCs, said Rob McShinsky, a senior systems engineer at the center.

Microsoft Surface RT vs. Surface Pro

Microsoft launched the Surface RT tablet on October 25, the same day it delivered Windows 8. But to compete with more popular tablets, such as the iPad, Microsoft designed the Surface RT around an ARM processor, which is faster, uses less memory, and is miserly when it comes to battery life.

Early on, IT pros made it clear that they wanted a tablet they could manage the same way they do other PCs and notebooks under their purview.

The high Surface Pro price may surprise some, though. It will -- at least initially -- come in two models: a 64 GB version will cost $899, and a 128 GB unit will cost $999. A snap-on touch keyboard will cost an extra $130.

While the purchase price of the Surface Pro might seem high, that's actually only a small part of the overall tablet expense, Gold said.

"IT costs money. The acquisition cost [of the device] is just a small part of it," Gold added.

In comparison, a similar 64 GB Dell Latitude 10 costs $927 without a keyboard, while a HP ElitePad 900 with a similar configuration costs $1,010.

More on Microsoft Surface tablets

Microsoft Surface pricing: The least of IT's concerns

Microsoft Surface price dooms it to fail

The x86 Surface: A dream or a disappointment?

McShinsky said the tablets used in his organization are in the range of $1,700 each, while some of the doctors have their own iPads that are not administered by IT. (Part of the cost of the tablets is that the devices are ruggedized, and some also have non-standard screen sizes to suit some of their applications).

It remains unknown, of course, whether the Surface Pro will be more popular than the Surface RT has been. Microsoft claimed last week that it sold 60 million licenses for Windows 8 between the end of October and the end of December, but the company has given no numbers as to how many Surface RT tablets it has sold. Given that the Surface Pro hasn't shipped yet, none of those 60 million licenses can be attributed to the Surface Pro.

Still, many think the Surface Pro may find a niche in corporate environments.

"It will be a slow burn," Gold said. "It will probably take two or three years to become popular," he added.

Will the Microsoft Surface Pro stick?

The question then becomes one of how committed Microsoft really is to building and selling its own tablet devices. More Surface devices are already in planning, of course.

If Microsoft is not going to stick with Surface -- the way it has with the Xbox game console -- and instead abandons the project after initial setbacks -- like it did with the Kin tablet -- it could just be pounding sand down a rat hole.

However, Microsoft may have made the right design decisions for the Surface Pro, one analyst said.

"It's a full-featured, enterprise-ready tablet," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif., who tried the Surface Pro for the first time at this month's Consumer Electronics Show. He cited the Surface Pro's ability to run Office 2013 for Windows 8 as a defining feature he feels will attract IT pros.

"They approached it from the PC side, not the tablet side," Enderle added.

Microsoft declined to comment.

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Will your company consider the Windows Pro tablet? Why or why not?
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I haven’t purchased a tablet of any kind yet. Because it is running a complete operating system and can run real applications the Surface Pro is the first one that I would consider.
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It is a great mobile tablet/pc
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Yes. My firm is at the end of its lease cycle with our current laptops. The thought is that this device can give all the functionality expected of a laptop with some of the benefits of a tablet at a similar price point.
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Yes - i like the security and ability to run full suite of windows programs
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I already have the Surface running RT and Pro will cost too much. I’d rather save money and buy something similar.
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We need portability with access to M’soft products.
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Yes. It's got management in AD, user Account COntrol, Ability to manage using standard tools (SCCM).
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Too costly compared to netbooks!!!
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It will run Office 13 smoothly.
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Price point destroys ROI. More powerful lightweight laptops are much less and provide much more.
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works with domains
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This functionality with this footprint is sorely needed.
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No. Unrealistic and poor battery life
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helllooooooooooooo, full pc in a tablet: its what tablets were supposed to be in the first place
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Yes, to provide a tablet for schools that can be managed by AD
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Yes. Fully fledged MS Office and access to corporate apps, whilst being managed via group policy
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Yes - I need a tablet that runs Windows 7 apps.
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No, there are too many unknowns and managability issues
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Given our approach to BYOD, we plan to support Surface Pro devices if employees embrace them as legitimate business productivity tools.
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Too costly at the moment
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I need office administration capability on the go. The forecoming focus will be on how to bundle an entire marketing & sales development and presentation and follow thru from contracts, to escrow and to continuous service and repeat sales on a most efficient device that does not bog anyone down physically. As a real estate professional of the 21st century the wow factor will be to accomplish full/fast paperless communication at a reasonable price.
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Yes. Better compatibility with existing Windows computers and applications
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Yes. It would be easier to integrate into existing infrastructure.
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Great device for a student, I can write my notes using OneNote and also enjoy some entertainment with the Windows apps. Also, the device is highly portable and weighs only 2 lbs. Finally, it's productive enough to type up a 20 page research paper or casual enough to catch a TV show on Netfilx. Just the device I need.
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Having the full power of Windows 8 in a tablet with a digitizer is amazing. I only wish we would get the option to have 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
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because it meets needs but i would expect us to buy more if it had 256SSD
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Stylus support for OneNote is the killer app for Surface Pro.
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Seems to be exactly what we've been looking for
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Great for airplanes!
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Simple,
It's a touch screen notebook and full powered PC OS to help sales and techs work to support and sell to our clients
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Because it will have a full-fledged OS and full Microsoft Office usage capability.
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Active Directory Authentication, and the Stylus.
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Makes a lot more sense than trying to shoehorn Apple or Android devices
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windows 8 applications in a compact device
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windows on the go - great interface
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We think it may be capable of helping to increase the productivity, facilitating the "mobile office" concept.
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It would much more useful in managing IT resources
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We will first do an evaluation within the IT department to see how well it works as a portable server management tool and how easily it can be managed though GP. We will compare it with similar products from other vendors such as Dell. We gave no thought to using the RT version and have been waiting for the Pro model with a full version of Windows 8. We think this may be a very good replacement for many or our management team and frequent travelers and be less expensive than giving these users both a PC and an iPad.
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Looking for a efficient and compatable pc that is small and compact
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INcluded Office. with more RT on the market it becomes more popular more software will be ported to ARM.
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I will be using both RT and pro indifferent uses. It will be easy to cloud them to gather.
The unit is light and easy. I like easy
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