Microsoft's Windows 8 Surface tablets for business ship Feb. 9

Microsoft will ship the business model of its Surface tablet for Windows 8 on Feb. 9, later than the widely rumored Jan. 29 release date and about three weeks later than when the company said last year that it would ship.

Surface for Windows 8 Pro (or just Surface Pro) is the device expected to show off Windows 8 to full advantage given that it is made by Microsoft and that it supports all aspects of Windows 8.

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Microsoft initially said Surface Pro would ship about 90 days after the Oct. 26 ship date of the other Surface tablet, which would have made the date Jan. 18. Last week a Microsoft employee tweeted that Surface Pros were rolling off the assembly line.

The earlier released Surface RT, which, with its ARM processor is designed for long battery life, lacks support for traditional desktop applications. The one exception is an abbreviated version of Office that ships with the device.

Surface Pro, on the other hand, supports any application that runs on Windows 7 as well as the new Windows Store applications. It is the support for legacy applications that make this Surface the most attractive to businesses.

It is based on an Intel Core i5 processor and HD4000 graphics. It also has a touchscreen that meets Microsoft's Windows 8 specifications, a detachable keyboard and a pop-out kickstand to prop up the screen when it's used in laptop mode. The keyboard is held on with magnets, and when removed the device becomes a tablet.

Surface Pro comes in two models, one with 64GB storage for $899 and one with 128GB storage for $999. That's without the keyboard/cover, of which there are two types. The Touch ($120) has a keyboard embossed on a thin, fuzzy surface that is sensitive to finger taps but there are no mechanical keys. The Type keyboard ($129) has plastic mechanical keys that move and costs.

A stylus for note taking is included with Surface Pro.

Microsoft is adding a new line of Touch keyboards with cosmetic differences from the initial Touch covers, which come in five colors -- black, white, cyan, magenta and red. The difference with the new ones is they have designs etched into them and cost $129 rather than $120.

With the announcement of the new keyboard/covers, Microsoft is also announcing that it is selling Surface RT -- the 64GB ARM model -- as a standalone without a keyboard for those who want to use it solely as a tablet. It costs $599. With a Type keyboard it sells for $699.

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 Surface Pro shippingConfiguration / maintenancePChardware systemsSurface Pro for Windows 8 priceSurface Pro priceWindowssoftwareoperating systemsData CenterSurface Pro for Windows 8 availabilityMicrosoft

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