It is official: Microsoft Surface tablets start at $499, Windows RT version will be available Oct 26

After much speculation, the cat is out of the bag. Microsoft has officially announced the pricing on one of the Surface tablets… and it isn’t very pretty.

According to Microsoft, the WiFi-only Windows RT Surface tablet with 32GB will start at $499. If you want the “smart cover”, an awesome cover for Surface tablets that doubles as a keyboard, you will need to shell out another $120; or you can purchase the tablet and cover together and get a slight discount — $599 for 32GB version. If you want a 64GB version, you must buy it in a bundle with a cover for a total cost of $699.

The Windows RT version of the Surface tablet will be available starting October 26. They are available for pre-order now.

Microsoft has not yet provided full details on the pricing of the Windows 8 Pro version of the Surface but has mentioned they will be priced like Ultrabooks (aka around $1,000), and they will hit market in January 2013.

For those that aren’t familiar with Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro, both are the tablet versions of Windows 8. The major difference is Windows RT tablets run on ARM-based CPUs (which are more energy-efficient than x86-64 chips) and can only run apps from the Windows Store. Windows 8 Pro tablets, on the other hand, run on traditional x86-64 chips (e.g. Intel, AMD, etc.) and provide the “full” Windows 8 experience — you can install regular Windows programs plus Windows Store apps. Essentially Windows RT tablets are comparable to Android and iPad tablets while Windows 8 Pro tablets are Windows laptops in tablet form.

Compared to the iPad, which starts at $499 for the WiFi-only 16GB version, the Windows RT Surface is a bit cheaper if you consider the fact that the 32GB WiFi-only iPad costs $599. However, is it cheap enough to entice customers away from the 250,000+ iPad apps available on Apple App Store for the few hundred (thousand?) currently available on Windows Store? Only time will tell, but I doubt it. In my opinion, Microsoft has made a big blunder here.

I’m curious as to why Microsoft has decided to go iPad-like pricing when time has shown us that iPad cannot be beaten at that price. My guess is either

  • Microsoft doesn’t have the economies of scale to lower the price on the Surface tabs; or,
  • Microsoft didn’t want to price the Surface tablets so aggressively that it angered its OEM partners who will also be making Windows 8 tablets.

My guess is a mix of the two.

In either case, at $499 I would only buy a Windows RT tablet with an AMD chip because that would then allow me to run Android apps on it, essentially providing me with a Windows RT and Android tablet for the price of one. If not that, then why the hell would I want to purchase a tablet that is essentially no better than cheaper Android alternatives? Or why would I shell out so much money for Windows RT Surface when I can get the iPad, which has must better third-party developer support (at this moment in time)? I’m no business oracle, but this sounds like an epic fail on Microsoft’s part.

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6 comments

  1. Mike

    Microsoft just doesn’t get it (and Ashraf is directly on point). This seems like a Zune situation redux.

    Microsoft is coming from behind here, and just isn’t giving any great reason to go its way and pay the around same or more but get no more (and, indeed less, in terms of app support).

    I could see a reason to go the MS route with the Pro version and get Windows compatibility, but not at $1000–get a nice Ultrabook, with greater capability, for cheaper, instead.

  2. Karl

    Idiots. I was holding off the purchase of buying ANY tablet until these came out. Now it looks like I’ll just get an Android instead. This is not just an epic FAIL for MS on tablets; in the long-run, this also means I will probably never purchase MS Office again, though I have been upgrading every 2-3 years since around 1990.

  3. clockmendergb

    What a shame.
    They finally got the message with the OS pricing.
    and then go back to their dumb ways on pricing the tablet.

    I had figured the full by x86-64 would run the same as the Apple and the the Arm models would compete with the Androids..

    Gosh was I wrong or what.

  4. mukhi

    disappointing, better to pay a little higher and look for OEM equivalents with full win8, IMO. with so many uncertainties with a non-established tab, better to go for even ipad. i guess MS will be in trouble again with strategy this time.