news Almost 12 months after it first announced the device, Microsoft has finally confirmed that it will launch its Surface Pro family of Windows 8-based tablets in Australia later this month.
The Pro was first announced in mid-June 2012 by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer at an event in Los Angeles, alongside the lesser Surface RT device which launched in Australia later that year. Unlike the Surface RT, the Pro runs a full version of Windows 8 which allows users to run traditional Windows desktop applications.
However, the company has been slow to launch the device in Australia. When the Surface Pro launched in February, Microsoft left Australia off the list of countries to receive the Surface Pro, with only those in the United States and Canada being able to buy the Pro. In that time, a number of other Microsoft original equipment manufacturers have launched Windows 8-based tablets or combination laptop devices, with companies such as Dell and Lenovo placing a particular focus on the new form factors.
In a post on the company’s Australian blog late yesterday, Microsoft Australia corporate communications manager Ben Tan wrote that the Surface Pro would launch in Australia on May 30, with the unit available for purchase through JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman.
In Australia, the Surface Pro will be available in two configurations: a 64GB standalone version for $999 RRP and a 128GB standalone version priced at $1,099 RRP. A range of accessories are available with the Surface family, including the Type Cover at $149.99 RRPand Touch Cover for $139.99 RRP.
“Like many Aussies, I spend my life on the go, travelling in both my personal and professional lives,” wrote Tan. “With Surface Pro, having the power and performance of a PC in a tablet package is the perfect fit. I can do virtually everything I’ve ever done on a PC, ranging from using my favourite desktop applications to enjoying the protection of world-class safety and security.”
“The addition of the Surface Pen lets me jot down ideas whenever I need to capture any notes or sketch a diagram that I couldn’t do easily with a keyboard – i.e. during those flights in row 34 on the plane! Surface Pro is an extension of the Windows 8 experience, letting Australians work, play and connect via numerous apps and features. Powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and weighing less than two pounds (approximately 900 grams) and measuring just 13.5 millimetres thin, it’s the perfect way to do more with all the power of a PC.”
It is believed that the Pro’s main competition in Australia will be either traditional laptops, or Apple’s iPad. In general, the Pro’s specifications make it more similar to a laptop than an iPad; the unit runs a traditional Intel Core i5 processor with an on-board HD Graphics 4000 chip, and it comes with 4GB of RAM and laptop-esque features such as a full-size USB 3.0 port, a microSDXC card slot, a mini DisplayPort outlet, and a full desktop operating system. It also comes with a full-size keyboard embedded in its cover.
However, in its form factor, the Pro is more similar to Apple’s popular iPad line — the unit weighs just over 900g, and it is only 1.3cm thick.
When the unit was first announced, it was welcomed by Australia’s enterprise IT community, with local site ZDNet Australia finding that a panel of chief information officers believed it could fit in well with existing Microsoft-dominated enterprise systems.
Wow. It’s taken almost a year from the Surface Pro being announced to get the device to Australia. That starkly demonstrates that Microsoft has just not yet scaled up its operations to be able to deal with the kind of global manufacturing it needs if it’s going to make the Surface a big deal. I would not blame those who have almost forgotten about the Surface Pro by now — they’ve had to wait that long.
However, that’s not to say that I don’t think the Surface Pro can’t still do well in Australia if Microsoft can get some scale to the device’s shipments locally. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect the device to do well with consumers or substantially challenge Apple’s iPad. However, in the enterprise, where most large organisations already have existing relationships with Microsoft, I expect the Surface Pro to find something of a home, especially with executives who only make light use of their existing laptops at the moment, or want a secondary machine to use as a tablet.
As with the Windows Phone smartphones which are currently being adopted in enterprises around Australia, the Surface Pro will be a good fit for many medium and large organisations who want to offer a Microsoft tablet to their staff — a device which will integrate well with their existing Microsoft environments.
I’ve asked Microsoft for a review unit, but haven’t heard back from the company’s spokespeople yet. I’m not holding my breath though — Microsoft was unable to get me a Surface RT review unit when that model launched locally last year.