Why the Surface Pro will bury the Surface RT

In a few weeks, Microsoft will deliver the Windows tablet that really runs Windows

The commercials for Microsoft's Surface RT tablet are catchy. And at the Microsoft Store I've visited, I've seen happy people walking out with their new Surface RTs.

But I would never recommend a Surface RT tablet in an enterprise environment, even with integrated device encryption and Windows Defender antivirus software built in. The fact that the version of Microsoft's Windows Intune software that can manage the Surface RT is finally available isn't enough to get my recommendation. I'm much too paranoid about corporate data and security for the RT to be a viable option in the enterprises I work with. However, I can recommend the Surface Pro tablet that will ship on Feb. 9.

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A Surface RT and a Surface Pro may look the same, but they're not. The ARM-based Surface RT runs Microsoft's Windows RT OS, which simply doesn't support the Windows security and management features that "real" Windows does. The Intel x86-based Surface Pro does run "real" Windows -- Windows 8 Pro, to be exact. That makes all the difference.

I think users know this, too. After all, Microsoft sold just 1 million Surface RT tablets last quarter -- half of what Microsoft itself predicted and about 7 percent of the number of iPads sold in the same period.

The Surface RT has been frustrating for many buyers, with reports of software updates not working, both for Windows itself and for apps. Many users saw the Windows moniker and assumed that the Surface RT tablet ran their existing Windows software. It doesn't -- just the new "Metro" apps and the special version of Office 2013 that's preinstalled. It's not the Windows they know or expect.

That's why the Surface Pro will eliminate the market for the Surface RT.

There are other signs that the market wanted something besides a Windows RT-based tablet from Microsoft. Samsung has said publicly that it won't make a Windows RT-based tablet, while most other PC makers have simply stayed mum. One of the rationales for Windows RT was that it would take advantage of the low power consumption of ARM chips; Intel's x86 chips have been notorious power hogs. But Intel has made huge strides with lower-power x86 chips, closing that gap. If you want to run the full Windows and traditional Windows apps, you need an x86 chip in your tablet.

Perhaps Microsoft should have kept true to its Intel-based roots and kept all eggs in that basket, rather than dabble with ARM and confuse the market in the process.

Yes, the Surface Pro is 50 percent thicker than the Surface RT: 13.5mm versus 9.3mm. And yes, it is heavier, at 2 pounds versus 1.5 pounds. But neither the extra thickness nor extra weight is significant, while the support for full Windows is. Plus, the Surface Pro has a higher-resolution screen -- 1,920 by 1,080 pixels versus the Surface RT's 1,366 by 768 pixels -- and it has a USB 3.0 port versus the Surface RT's USB 2.0 port.

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