Microsoft has quietly revealed a third version of its Surface Pro tablet, this time including a full version of Office 2013 Home and Student at no extra cost, though you’ll have to be in China – and read the language – in order to benefit. The “Surface Chinese Edition” is physically identical to the regular Surface Pro tablet, but swaps Windows 8 Pro for Windows 8 for China.
Where the regular Pro tablet comes with a one month trial of Office 2013 Home and Student, however, the Chinese Edition gets the full package. That’s despite the local variant being priced the same for the 128GB model, even though Office 2013 would usually be 699 yuan ($113).
However, there are some limitations too, not least from the underlying restrictions on Windows 8 for China. The biggest is likely to be language support, since the OS can only be used with the Simplified Chinese UI language pack; you’ll need a full (paid) copy of Windows 8 if you want to use any others.
Whether the third variant of the tablet will improve sales for Microsoft, or just confuse them, remains to be seen. The inclusion of the full copy of Office suggests Microsoft is looking to combat software theft – something the low-cost, download-only Windows 8 for China was also intended to do – but having it on sale alongside, rather than instead of, the regular Surface Pro could end up puzzling potential buyers.
Preorders of the new Surface Chinese Edition are open now, priced at 6588 yuan ($1,062) for the 64GB model and 7388 yuan ($1,191) for the 128GB model. They’ll begin shipping come April 10.