Tablet showdown: Microsoft Surface RT vs. Apple iPad

Microsoft Tuesday announced that it is accepting online orders for its ARM-based "Surface with Windows RT" touch tablet. This is the first Microsoft-designed and -sold mobile device, due to ship Oct. 26 with the formal launch of Windows 8.

IN PICTURES: Cool features of Microsoft Surface tablets

Below is the feature-based comparison of the Surface with the reigning tablet, the third-generation Apple iPad, released earlier in 2012.

The feature-to-feature matchup may have less to do with the final buying decision by most end users. One way of thinking about such decisions is to consider what is the "job" (or jobs) for which a user "hires" the tablet -- what's the job to be done?

Microsoft is trying to capture consumer interest by offering a redesigned Windows UI (drawing on the formerly called Metro design first introduced for its Windows Phone operating system), offering it consistently across different types of computers (desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone), and incorporating familiar Windows applications such as Office and Internet Explorer, along with online services such as SkyDrive. With the Windows RT version, Microsoft can exploit the ARM processor architecture instead of being limited to Intel.

But big companies that are eager to buy a finally competitive Microsoft tablet apparently shouldn't expect much help from Microsoft, at least initially, according to Network World's Tim Greene, who writes our Mostly Microsoft blog.

Surface with Windows RT runs a version of Windows 8 written for the ARM microprocessor architecture. The standard software stack will also include Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT preview (with Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote), along with Windows Mail and Messaging; SkyDrive; Internet Explorer 10; Bing; and Xbox music, video and games. The tablet also will ship with Microsoft's "Touch Cover," which snaps in place, offering both a cover, when closed, and a full-size keyboard when open.

Initially, Surface will be Wi-Fi only, though Microsoft has indicated that 3G/LTE options are likely in the future.

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