Surface is priced competitively relative to the iPad: Microsoft's device runs $499 for the 32-GB version or the $599 for 64-GB edition, whereas Apple's tablets cost $599 and $699, respectively, for the same capacities. The iPad Mini complicates this, however: it starts at $329 for 16 GB and offers 32-GB and 64-GB configurations that are $70 less than comparable Surface models.
The newest iPad has questions of its own to answer, of course, and Surface will be competing not only with Apple's latest offering but also other Windows RT tablets and the slew of Android-based devices. Nonetheless, if Windows RT (let alone Surface as a specific option) is to attract attention from either consumers or businesses, the iPad is the preeminent measuring stick.
Whether Microsoft succeeds is anyone's guess. Though the San Francisco pop-up store drew crowds Friday, afternoon traffic was similar at Apple's flagship store, which sits across Market Street, less than a block away. Given that Apple had only one new product on display -- the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, arguably the least exciting of its recent announcements -- the Microsoft store's accomplishment might seem somewhat muted.
Those in line during the store's opening day, however, expressed enthusiasm not only while they waited but also, and more importantly, after they had actually tried out Surface. Microsoft faces a steep hill, but should the positive sentiment prove contagious, the company might succeed despite all the naysayers.