Microsoft to release Surface Pro Saturday

It’s time for round two in Microsoft’s challenge to Apple’s much-adored iPad.

Microsoft will release the newest version of the Surface on Saturday, unveiling at last the full-bore Windows 8 experience for tablet users.

The Surface Windows 8 Pro is said to cram the full-scale experience of a Windows 8 laptop into a 10-inch tablet. The Pro is compatible with programs that run on earlier versions of Windows and, although it weighs just 2 pounds, the company says it can handle just about any program you throw at it.

The Surface Pro might be smaller than a laptop, but it’s certainly not cheaper — the tablet starts at a whopping $899. The earlier version of the Surface running Windows RT topped out at $699 when it first launched.

Microsoft released Surface RT in October as the device that would showcase Windows 8, the most dramatic overhaul of the operating system in two decades. Crowds flocked to stores on launch weekend, but sales since have missed expectations, according to some reports. IDC research firm reports that the company shipped about 900,000 Surface RT tablet during the holidays, a muted start to sales. (Microsoft does not report sales figures, leaving analysts to estimate based on supplier numbers.)

The Pro may to better. Tech reviewers say it is a marked improvement from the Surface RT, and a stylish powerhouse that can run any apps your desktop can. Critics, however, say Microsoft’s second effort at a laptop-tablet hybrid falls short. The gadget’s design, with its detachable keyboard and digital pen, rub some loyal laptop users the wrong way.

But make your own call. Microsoft employees will offer demos and help customers personalize their new tablets at stores beginning Saturday. Best Buy is also selling the Pro.

Picking up a Surface Pro this weekend? Leave your comments here.

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (223 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.