FAQ: The business case for Microsoft Surface Pro laptop/tablets

Microsoft says Surface for Windows 8 Pro laptop/tablets are rolling off the assembly lines, meaning that availability of the hardware Microsoft thinks Windows 8 should run on can't be far off.

The device sports a removable touch screen, a cover that doubles as a keyboard and a kickstand to prop up the screen for laptop mode. With the cover flipped back, the device becomes a tablet suitable for using Windows 8's touch-driven Modern interface as opposed to its desktop.

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But is it right for your business?

Here are some questions you should ask and the answers you'll want in order to make an informed opinion about whether to buy Surface Pro for your organization.

What does it cost?

Either $899 with a 64GB hard drive or $999 with 128GB hard drive. Keyboard/covers are extra. Type covers with keys that actually depress cost $130. Touch Covers with a static keyboard surface that is touch-sensitive cost $120.

How do you buy it in volume?

CEO Steve Ballmer said months ago that Surface devices would be sold only in the Microsoft Store online or brick and mortar Window Stores. Since then Surface RT -- the low-powered, limited Windows 8 tablet -- has gone on sale in the big consumer electronics stores. But there haven't been any formal changes announced by Microsoft to do the same with Surface Pro.

How can you manage a fleet of these things?

Via System Center Configuration Manager SP1 and Windows Intune.

Will it support all legacy business applications?

Microsoft says any apps that run on Windows 7 will also run on Windows 8, which also supports Windows Store applications that are based on Windows Runtime and cater to touch.

How well is it made?

TBD. Surface RT, which is different but looks similar, had some anecdotal problems with the covers separating at the seams, but nothing that warranted a recall.

How long does the battery last?

Microsoft says about half the life of Surface RT, which makes it somewhere between four and five hours. With an Intel Core i5 processor inside, Surface Pro will be eating up a lot of power compared to ARM-powered Surface RT, but Intel says it is coming out with less power-hungry Core processors. If Microsoft swaps them in to Surface Pro, expect better battery life.

What does it have for storage?

Either a 64GB hard drive or a 128GB hard drive. It has a microSDXC card slot.

How much memory does it have?

4GB.

How much does it weigh?

2 pounds.

How big is it?

10.81 inches x 6.81 inches x 0.53 inches. The thickness doesn't include the keyboard/cover, which can be either 6 mm for the Type Cover or 3.25 mm for the Touch Cover.

How good is the screen?

The screen is 10.6 inches with a 16:9 aspect ratio and pixel count of 1920x1080.

What applications does it come with?

Windows Mail and Messaging, SkyDrive, Internet Explorer 10, Bing and Xbox Music, Video, and Games.

What ports does it have?

It sports a full-size USB 3.0 port, a headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort and a port for the keyboard. It lacks an Ethernet port.

What wireless technologies does it support?

802.11a, b, g and n Wi-Fi. and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. No 3G or 4G LTE.

How is the security?

Windows 8 is widely considered much more secure than Windows 7. Features include Trusted Boot and Secure Boot, Restore and Refresh options for cleaning up infections, an expanded Windows Defender security software package, SmartScreen to check out downloaded executables, sandboxed applications and logically isolated tabs within Internet Explorer 10.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

Tags Windows 8 laptopsConfiguration / maintenancePCMicrosoft Windows 8 tablethardware systemsWindowssoftwareWindows 8 tabletoperating systemsData CenterMicrosoft Surface ProMicrosoft

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