Microsoft pitches Surface Pro with Mac-iPad price comparison
"This isn't yet a fair comparison ... but it's a comparison Microsoft would like to make," Moorhead said. "The challenge for Microsoft is that the Surface Pro doesn't make a very good tablet. Yet."
He cited tablet-esque weaknesses that ranged from the Surface Pro's weight -- heavier than a MacBook Air when the Type Cover is included -- and an anticipated short battery life, to too few apps and limited storage space on the 64GB model.
The primary culprit of the worst of those failings, Moorhead argued, was the power-hungry Intel processor. That situation should change in 2014, when Intel and AMD push new lower-powered chips to market, and as AMD boosts the performance of its power-miser processors.
But for 2013, the Surface Pro can't cut it on the tablet half of the equation that Reller used.
"Microsoft's putting the Surface Pro in the most favorable light possible, which is what you do, but it's an early product. With the things on the horizon [devices like the Surface Pro], will get really, really good next year," said Moorhead.
Some experts questioned the legitimacy of Reller's message on other grounds.
"It's an apples and oranges comparison," said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, contending that customers don't go looking for a hybrid when shopping for a notebook. "They're trying to blur [the lines] and induce people to buy the Surface Pro."
Even Gottheil, who was the most bullish of the three analysts on the Surface Pro, noted, "You don't make a buying decision on where you get the cheapest combination."
In fact, with tablets quickly skewing to smaller screen sizes -- buying trends indicate that the 10-in. tablet will account for a minority of sales this year, replaced by 7-in. devices -- the Surface Pro argument may not hold water for long.
"Windows 8 may not work on a smaller-scale device," Gottheil acknowledged.
"I would still recommend people check out a 7-in. tablet or a phablet," said Moorhead of the term used to describe phone-tablet hybrids with screens as large as 5-in., like Samsung's Galaxy Note II, as a companion to a lightweight notebook. "The Surface Pro isn't a tablet that you're going want to kick back in bed to read a novel."
The Surface Pro goes on sale Saturday, Feb. 9, but reviews began appearing today.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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