In a long-expected move, Microsoft has announced it will roll out its Surface Tablet running Windows 8 Pro for x86 machines in January 2013.

The new tablet will have a list price under the sensitive $1,000 mark, at $899 for a 64GB version and $999 for a 128GB version.

Microsoft managed to keep the price under $1000 by making the snap-on keyboard additional. It runs at about $104.

Panos Panay, general manager of the Microsoft Surface division, in a blog post, said the Surface Pro, powered by x86-based processors, differs in several ways from Surface models running Windows RT that are powered by ARM-based processors in both features and specifications.

First, Windows 8 Pro models come with a specially designed pen for writing notes or marking up text on the Surface’s touch screen. The pen is accompanied by technology Microsoft calls “Palm Block,” which, as its name implies, protects the text being written if the user’s palm mistakenly touches the screen.

The Surface Pro is a step up from the Surface RT and is targeted at enterprise users given that it can run Windows 7 applications.

Surface Pro tablets also integrate better with security and network management frameworks used in most organizations.

However, these positives alone will not automatically win over enterprise users, many of whom are in the process of migrating to Windows 7 and see little advantages to the Metro style interface.

There hardly seems to be marketing confusion in the Windows 8 marketplace as x86-based Windows 8 Pro tablets have been available in the marketplace for the last couple of months from HP, Dell and others. So while this is a rollout of the Surface Pro tablet, it is not a rollout of Windows Pro-based devices.

The release of the Surface may be tinged with a little bit of desperation for Microsoft as rumors of poor sales of the Surface RT abound in the press. Microsoft has been tight-lipped about actual sales, while touting 40 million Windows 8 licenses ‘sold’.

The Surface Pro will use an Intel Core i5 processor, providing a graphics boost for its 10.6-inch screen. This screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio on Microsoft’s ClearType display, delivering 1920×1080 HD resolution. It also supports an external monitor display of up to 2560X1440 resolution.

EWeek magazine writes:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the shareholders meeting that Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses in its first month on the market, which would be ahead of the 30 million for the first month on the market for Windows 7 in 2009. But Silver notes that there have been 25 percent more PCs sold so far in 2012 than in 2009, which means there was more demand for PCs, not necessarily more demand for Windows 8.

Nonetheless, Microsoft is stepping up its marketing effort for Windows 8 and Surface, particularly with the number of product placements in TV shows, a competition Silver says Apple has long dominated.

One other issue with the Surface Pro is the battery life, as the Intel-based processor uses more power than the low-power ARM. This gives it about half the battery life of Surface RT.

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