June 23, 2012, 7:18 AM — During their splashy press conference on Monday, Steve Ballmer and the other Microsoft execs referred to the company's upcoming Surface devices as tablets. So it makes sense to compare them to other tablets, right?
Actually, that's only half-right. The ARM-based Surface for Windows RT looks like--and will be priced like--competing tablets, but the Surface for Windows Pro will be too heavy and expensive to compete head-to-head with the iPad. (For the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to the two models as "Surface RT" and "Surface Pro" hereafter.) Surface Pro's natural competition: Windows Ultrabooks.
The tricky thing is that the Surface Pro is the tablet that many Windows users think they've been waiting for. It's the one that can do anything a desktop can do: It can run the apps we have already (like Adobe Photoshop CS6, and Camera Bits Photo Mechanic), graphics-intensive games (like Diablo), and other tried-and-true Windows software; and it has a serious laptop processor, Intel's Core series, that can power through complicated work.
But the Surface Pro's price may not come in at what you'd expect for a tablet. You can buy a new 16GB iPad for $499, but Microsoft has said that the Surface Pro's price will be more comparable to that of an Ultrabook--likely hundreds of dollars more. Granted, that would put the Surface Pro closer in cost to a 64GB iPad ($700), but that price isn't the one that consumers have in their heads for a tablet. Nor is it a price that will generate mass-market tablet sales. Also, at nearly 2 pounds, the Pro will be far heavier than most tablets.
Evidently the Surface Pro won't compete with top tablets in display resolution, either. Microsoft has said that the Surface Pro will have a "Full HD" display, meaning a display with a resolution of at least 1920 by 1200 pixels. That would put it on a par with the best Android tablets from Asus and Acer; but because those displays are 0.5 inch smaller, their pixel density should be better. And none of those tablets' resolutions can compare with the Apple iPad's at 2048 by 1536 pixels.