Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) is throwing its full support behind the next version of Surface by sending a large number of units to retail.
According to DigiTimes, Microsoft will have an initial shipment volume of one million units when Surface Windows 8 Pro ships next week. In the report, DigiTimes cites "sources from the upstream supply chain."
Unlike the standard, Windows RT version of Surface, the new Pro version is aimed at enterprise users looking for a full PC replacement. With a third-generation Core i5 processor from Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), as well as 4GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 4000, Surface Pro is one of the most powerful tablets scheduled for release this year.
The $899 starting price might be steep compared to the cost of a cheap tablet, but the features -- which are on par with touch screen laptops selling for roughly the same price -- are vastly superior.
Compared to the 128GB iPad 4 -- the exact same iPad released last fall but with twice the memory -- Surface Pro is practically a steal. The base model ships with half the memory, but with the included microSDXC card slot, users can instantly double their hard drive space. To double an iPad's memory, users must buy an entirely new device.
The 128GB iPad 4 retails for $799 -- $100 more than the 64GB, Wi-Fi-only model. According to CNET, that device is costing Apple $35.20 more to manufacture, yet the company is charging $100 more to consumers. This is in addition to the extra fees consumers spend for the 32GB and 64GB models versus the 16GB base model.
Surface Pro also includes a full-size USB 3.0 port, which opens the device to a world of attachments that are not compatible with any of the iOS devices -- including the iPad. With Surface, consumers are getting a full-fledged computer experience; with the iPad, they get something closer to a large iPhone.
That's not to say that the iPad no longer has a place in the market. However, if Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) thinks it can charge a PC price for an item that is not a PC, it might want to upgrade the iPad well beyond the fourth generation.
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