Best Buy will join Staples this weekend in selling Microsoft’s Surface tablet, previously available only online and at Microsoft’s own stores.

The electronics retailer made the announcement Thursday, saying that it will start selling the device on Dec. 16. Staples began selling the Surface on Wednesday. That’s good news for Microsoft, which is likely to benefit from more consumer exposure to the Surface and its tile-based Windows RT operating system.

The Surface tablet costs $499 for a 32 GB version without a keyboard cover. With the touch keyboard cover, the price jumps to $599.99, and users who want 64GB of memory and a cover will have to pay $699.

“Consumers have heard about this tablet, and now even more customers can experience it,” Best Buy executive Scott Anderson said in a statement.

By offering a touch keyboard cover, Microsoft is marketing the Surface as a good fit for business and education customers — a tablet that can handle more than just light e-mail and Web browsing.

But the Surface on store shelves now does not run legacy Windows programs. It will only run apps that are downloaded from the company’s store. That has prompted some critics to suggest caution in deciding whether to replace a laptop with a Surface and whether to use the device for work.

Microsoft has preloaded a version of Office on the Surface. But while the company has been aggressive about building out its app store, the Surface still doesn’t have anywhere near the breadth of software available for full-blown computers using Windows programs.

Microsoft says it will release a Surface tablet next year that will run a full version of the Windows 8 desktop operating system, starting at $899.

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Microsoft prices Surface with Windows 8 Pro

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