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Microsoft teases Surface Pro as 90-day deadline nears

Manger of Surface line says tablet arriving 'in the coming weeks'

Microsoft teased the Surface Pro today, hinting that the company will soon announce an on-sale date for its second tablet.

"On my way to the factory to check out #Surface Pro coming off the line...arriving in the coming weeks," tweeted Panos Panay, the general manager of Microsoft's Surface line.

Although the company has not set a ship date for the Surface Pro, last fall it said it would release the tablet approximately 90 days after the Oct. 26 debut of its Surface RT sibling. That timetable would peg the Surface Pro's launch as next week.

Microsoft has not refreshed its Surface Pro page with any new information on the model. That page continues to simply state, "Coming in early 2013."

In late November, Microsoft set pricing for the Surface Pro at $899 with 64GB of storage space, and $999 for 128GB. Microsoft's Touch Cover and Type Cover will be sold separately at $120 and $130, respectively.

Unlike the Surface RT, which has reportedly sold a disappointing 1 million units since its October launch, the Surface Pro will be powered by an Intel processor and rely on Windows 8 Pro. The combination will let the device run legacy Windows applications in a fully-functional traditional desktop, leading some Microsoft bulls to hope it will sell better than its predecessor.

If Microsoft follows the pattern it set for the Surface RT last fall, the company will announce the on-sale date and begin taking pre-orders 10 days before it launches the Surface Pro. However, Jan. 24, the 90-day post-RT mark, is only eight days from today.

Microsoft declined Wednesday to comment further on Panos' tweet, or answer questions about the Surface Pro's launch date or where it will be sold.

While the Surface RT was initially sold only through Microsoft's online store and at its retail chain, which includes more than two dozen temporary "pop-up" outlets, it later expanded sales to the Best Buy and Staples chains in the U.S.

At the same time Microsoft announced the distribution expansion, it said the pop-up stores, which were originally intended to close after the 2012 holidays, would remain open for an unspecified length of time in 2013.

Keeping open the pop-up stores for the next few months, and transforming several into permanent outlets, will provide more locations for potential customers to try, perhaps buy, the Surface Pro tablet.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.

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