Microsoft Surface RT or Surface Pro?

Choosing the Right Model for your Microsoft Tablet Device

Microsoft announced the pricing and a release date for their Windows 8 Surface Pro tablet today, so the question is, do you get a Surface RT now, or wait a few weeks to get the Surface Pro.

The real question is what you plan to do with the thing. If you plan to use it solely as an eBook reader, Web browser, email access device, then the Windows RT with the ARM-processor at $499 is a good solution. An RT version of Office comes with the unit so you can do Word, Excel, email, and with thousands of free apps, you can download eBook readers, mapping apps, News apps, the typical stuff.But if you are looking to get more functionality out of a mobile device, the Surface Pro that runs on an Intel-processor that runs standard Microsoft Windows applications is a better buy. The Pro version, at $899 with a 64gb SSD drive (or $999 with 128gb SSD), plus $99 extra for a snap-on keyboard, will be more compatible with common business and office applications.Users who are used to running Office 2010, or have a Windows-based line of business app will find the Surface Pro typically capable of just having the apps install on the Pro device like the user would install the app on any typical Windows XP or Windows 7 system. The Surface RT model running the ARM processor needs to have specific RT-based apps to run. Normal Windows apps won't run on RT.Personally, I've switched off an iPad and moved over to a Windows 8 based tablet a year ago (a Samsung Series 7 tablet) that I loaded up with a beta release of Win8 way back then, and have since updated to Windows 8 RTM. I found that while the iPad was super convenient to use as an eBook reader, video playback device when I have the kids traveling with me, or the occasional email and calendar tool, the fact that I couldn't run a handful of key business tools that were Windows-only (our Time and Billing system, or Expense report system, or Client Relationship Management tool), the iPad was really limited in being just a basic viewer-type device for me.When I switched over to the Win8 tablet, I was still able to use Kindle to download and read books. Kids can still play Angry Birds and watch videos (the kids, not me, really...), and because the Win8 tablet ran a full Intel-processor version of Windows, I was able to load up ALL of my line-of-business apps just like I have done for years on my laptop! FINALLY, a tablet that replaces my lugging around a laptop everywhere...  And not iPad apps that I’ve had to pay extra for $5 here and $20 there, but the exact same Windows-based apps I use at work!What I've also found is a lot of orgs are looking at the Surface Pro because they can manage, administer, support the Surface Pro like any other Windows computer, so that means it has the same Active Directory Group Policies, same patching tools, same anti-malware utilities, same monitoring tools, same user apps. So the Pro version is the "same" as other Windows systems the businesses are already managing and administering.So for businesses, I definitely see the Surface Pro likely being the better of the two endpoint versions.Does that mean the Surface RT has no place in businesses? No! Orgs that have users that are currently using iPads that may need better Microsoft support in their environment, but don’t need a full Intel-compatible device, will find the lower cost of the Surface RT and the better battery life make it the better option. The Surface RT comes with Microsoft Office that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, which is far better than the various $25 apps that over the years I’ve bought for my iPad only to really find that doing any actual editing on an iPad was pretty much OUT and it was best to be used for viewing documents or editing very SIMPLE documents, but nothing with real formatting, redlining, or the like. With Surface RT and Office 2013, I have been able to do normal Office-like stuff AND maintain format compatibility. And while I can’t patch/update a Surface RT device with my traditional System Center or other business management tool today, Microsoft has their cloud-based management tool (Intune) that I blogged about last week where Surface RT management CAN be centralized and managed by an organization’s IT department, and upcoming will be connected to System Center 2012 in a future update. So “better” support for a low-cost tablet than non-Microsoft tablet devices, and if the functionality suits your needs, then you may very well be set with the Surface RT in your enterprise.Microsoft has the Surface RT devices available today both through Microsoft’s Online Store, or through any of their Microsoft Retail Outlets across the country. The Surface Pro devices are expected to be available from Microsoft in January 2013.For other postings I’ve done on Windows Server 2012 and Exchange 2013, just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or click here to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!

Rand Morimoto is the President of Convergent Computing ( an early adopter partner of Microsoft that put Windows Server 2012 in production environments over 18-months before the product release. Rand is also the author of the book “Windows Server 2012 Unleashed,” over 1565-pages of tips, tricks, best practices, and lessons learned on Windows 2012, by Sams Publishing. Rand also co-authored the books “Exchange 2013 Unleashed” and “System Center 2012 Unleashed,” books also based on early adopter hands-on and real world implementations.

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