According to Web-based rumors citing an unnamed inside source, Microsoft plans to launch its new Windows RT-based Surface tablet computer October 26 at the low, low, low price of $199. Not coincidentally, October 26 is the also the day that the new Windows 8 operating system will formally launch.
If it does sell at a suggested retail price under $200, the new tablet would be in the pricing category of Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire -- two products whose specs and size are significantly below the Surface, so to speak.
The screen size of the Surface tablet is a generous 10.6 inches, compared to 7 inches for the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire. The Surface tablet also sports a magnetic cover that double as a keyboard.
Understanding the Different Versions
Surface is being released in two versions. One is based on the ARM processor and uses the Windows RT operating system. The second version is based on Intel's Ivy Bridge processor, using Windows 8 Pro as its operating system.
As of now, the $199 rumor is being reported only in relation to the RT/ARM version.
As an aside for those perplexed by all the acronyms, ARM stands for Advanced RISC Machines, with RISC being short for Reduced Instruction Set Computer. RT apparently refers to WinRT, the Windows Runtime Library. That technology enables developers to write one app that runs on both Windows 8 (using Intel-type processors) and Windows RT (using ARM technology).
One important distinction, according to our understanding, is that ARM-based Windows RT tablets won't run old Windows apps, whereas the Intel-type Windows 8 tablets will be able to do so.
There has been a good deal of grumbling among Microsoft's hardware partners about Microsoft entering the market as a tablet maker, including recent comments by Acer CEO JT Wang.
"Think twice," Wang said to Microsoft via The Financial Times. "It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction.
Wang has since said if the Surface tablet is launched at a price around $199, it could have a significant impact on the market and other hardware partners, while a price in the $499 to $599 range would be less disruptive.
Would Be 'Surprising'
If at least the RT version of Surface will be offered for $199, the tablet's high-end features and low-end pricing will undoubtedly ruffle many more feathers among tablet makers, since it could become the best bargain around for a high-quality tablet.
In its recently submitted annual report to the Security and Exchange Commission, Microsoft noted that its new line of Surface tablets "will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform."
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that Lenovo, Asus, Dell and Samsung will be releasing tablets based on its new OS, although long-time Microsoft-partner Toshiba said it does not have plans for a RT tablet.
We asked Ross Rubin, an analyst with Reticle Research, if he expects the price tag to be as low as $199.
Rubin said that it would be "surprising if Microsoft released a Surface tablet" at that price, although "all things are possible through subsidization" via carriers. But, he added, there is currently a "trend away from heavy subsidizing for tablets."
More Than Mere Tablets
Rubin also pointed out that the Surface is being positioned as not only a tablet, but also a PC with a keyboard.
In addition, Microsoft has recently been promoting the idea that there will be RT/ARM laptops, of which a Surface tablet/computer might be one example.
Even if a $199 price were limited to only the RT model, it could be competing with portable computers costing hundreds of dollars more. Because of this, Rubin suggested, the ceiling for the Surface might be around $699 or so.
Posted: 2012-10-02 @ 8:15am PT
We have been told that they will not be sold for $200!!!
This does not mean that other manufacturers will not sell Windows 8 tablets for $200, and they will. But not the Surface.