Microsoft announced yesterday that it is taking orders for its ARM-based Surface tablet running Windows RT. The device is due to ship on October 26 with the formal launch of Windows 8.

Below is the feature-based comparison of the Surface with the reigning tablet, the third-generation Apple iPad, released earlier in 2012.

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad

In the UK the 32GB Surface RT will cost £399 or £479 with a cover, with the 64GB version costing £559 with a Touch Cover. The Surface RT therefore competes directly with its Apple rival; the WiFi only iPad costs £399 for the 16GB version, £479 for the 32GB device and £559 for 64GB.

The feature-to-feature matchup may have less to do with the final buying decision by most end users. One way of thinking about such decisions is to consider what is the "job" (or jobs) for which a user "hires" the tablet - what's the job to be done?

Microsoft is trying to capture consumer interest by offering a redesigned Windows UI (drawing on the formerly called Metro design first introduced for its Windows Phone operating system), offering it consistently across different types of computers (desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone), and incorporating familiar Windows applications such as Office and Internet Explorer, along with online services such as SkyDrive. With the Windows RT version, Microsoft can exploit the ARM processor architecture instead of being limited to Intel.

Surface with Windows RT runs a version of Windows 8 written for the ARM microprocessor architecture. The standard software stack will also include Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT preview (with Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote), along with Windows Mail and Messaging; SkyDrive; Internet Explorer 10; Bing; and Xbox music, video and games. The tablet also will ship with Microsoft's "Touch Cover," which snaps in place, offering both a cover, when closed, and a full-size keyboard when open.

Initially, Surface will be Wi-Fi only, though Microsoft has indicated that 3G/LTE options are likely in the future.