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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 [2] has officially announced the pricing on one of the Surface tablets [3]… 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 [4] and Windows 8 Pro [5], both are the tablet versions of Windows 8 [6]. 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

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 [7], 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 [8] alternatives? Or why would I shell out so much money for Windows RT Surface when I can get the iPad [9], 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.