In late October, when Microsoft released the Windows RT version of Surface, the company estimated that the Windows 8 Pro version would arrive about 90 days later. Well, Microsoft didn't quite hit its own target, but it didn't miss by much. Today the company finally revealed a firm ship date for the Surface Pro: February 9.

High stakes

With the release date mystery solved, the biggest remaining mystery is whether the tablet will gain any traction with customers.

Early indicators point to the Windows RT Surface being a sales dud, with even bombastic CEO Steve Ballmer admitting that sales were "modest." The limited Windows Store and confusing operating system have forced Microsoft to pin all of its (short-term) tablet hopes on the Pro version.

A new – but pricey – hope

It's not a bad product to pin your hopes on. Surface Pro is a more logical extension of the company's "PC Plus" vision, allowing customers to run desktop Windows apps. It sports the same slick – though slightly beefier – design as the Surface RT, and uses the same (optional) keyboard accessories.

The Windows 8 Pro Surface has a sharper 10.6-inch display than its ARM-based cousin (1920 x 1080 vs. 1366 x 768). It also packs an Intel Core i5 processor, though Microsoft is mum on the chip's speed.

The Surface Pro's price, though, makes it less of an iPad rival, and more of a MacBook Air or Ultrabook rival. It starts at US$900 for the 64 GB version. For 128 GB, you'll need to pony up $1000. Neither price includes the tablet's keyboard, which will add at least an extra $120.

Will Surface Pro prove Microsoft's belated mobile strategy a success? Or will the tablet's MacBook-like price limit it to the Redmond faithful and enterprise customers? Stay tuned.

Source: Microsoft, via AllThingsD