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Microsoft Surface Pro tablet launch: Why was it so late to market?

Addenum: Microsoft has since confirmed that the Surface Pro will go on sale in January (opens in new tab), possibly at CES and will cost $899 for the 64GB model and $999 for the 128GB one. Based on the current pricing of the Surface RT, we can infer that the price of the 128GB model will be £800 and the 64GB model between £699 and £719. Also check out our review of the Microsoft Surface powered by Windows RT (opens in new tab).

The release date of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet is still unknown after representatives of the company seemingly sidelined any reference to the business-focused model during the official presentations of Windows 8 and Windows RT last week. (On that - check out this article for a quick comparison between the Windows-RT-flavour of Surface and the Windows 8 Pro iteration).

The product is expected to be launched approximately 90 days after Windows 8, which points to a February release roughly three weeks after the Consumer Electronics Show which will be the focal point for the tech industry in the first quarter of 2013.

But last week the spotlight was squarely on Windows RT with the Surface tablet based on this operating system getting all the love. As it stands, Surface Pro doesn’t have a set release date or a price, and you can’t even pre-order it.

What’s odd though, is that there’s no clear indication why Microsoft chose to launch Surface Pro well into next year. That model, after all, uses existing rather than next-generation technology, and the OS that powers it is already out. Indeed, there are products like the Dell XPS 12 convertible tablet now on the market that offer similar features.

Conspiracy theorists will posit that Microsoft wants to give a head start to Surface with Windows RT, although the models are aimed at different audiences. There are at least two other reasons to explain why Microsoft nudged the launch of Surface with Windows 8 Pro till next year.

Firstly, it wants to give its partners a head start in the all-too-important enterprise segment and give them more time to get their products ready (in comparison, there’s no Surface by Windows RT rivals on the market).

Secondly, next year will see the launch of Intel’s fourth generation Core processor based on the Haswell microarchitecture, one which, we suspect will be launched at CES in 2013. Could Intel and Microsoft work together to coincide the launch of Haswell with Windows 8 Pro on Surface? Totally.

Haswell will, according to Intel, “deliver better graphics support, new instructions for faster encryption and performance, new hardware-based security features and low-power processor sub-states to enable longer battery life”. These promises could be enough to convince Microsoft to push back the launch of Surface Pro by a few months.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.