Microsoft is finally entering the tablet market with the Surface Tablet line that will run their new tablet specific OS, Windows RT. On Tuesday, the Seattle based tech giant announced pricing and specs for their first Surface branded tablet line.
The official release date of the Surface line is October 26 at price points ranging from $499 to $699. The $499 ‘entry level’ model with be a 32 GB version. $599 will get you a 32 GB version with a black Touch cover. The top of the line model will sell for $699 with 64 GB and a black Touch cover.
The Touch Cover is one of the main features of the Surface tablet. It attaches to the tablet magnetically and doubles as a keyboard. Microsoft will also sell these covers separately in several colors (black, white, magenta, cyan and red) for $119. They’re also selling a cover called the Type Cover which is a little thicker and feels more like a traditional keyboard. These are only in black and are sold for $129.
Initially, the Surface will be available directly from Microsoft or at Microsoft stores. The company is also opening 29 ‘pop up’ stores for the holiday season. The pricing of the Surface tablet will put them directly into competition with the iPad. The iPad starts at $499. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has suggested that the ‘sweet spot’ of the tablet market is in the $300 to $800 range. Under the hood, the Surface Tablets will run the same ARM processors that power the iPad.
Microsoft will release another version of the tablet in a few months which will feature a Windows 8 Pro OS and run legacy Windows apps. This version of the tablet will be based on Intel and AMD processors and be priced higher, more in line with laptop computers.
Analysts were muted in their response to the announcement. Some were disappointed in the pricing which they hoped to be ‘more aggressive’. Others were concerned about the keyboard as a selling feature and suggested that getting consumers into the Microsoft stores and pop ups for a ‘hands on’ experience. Microsoft is optimistic about the Surface–based on component orders they’re expected to sell 3 to 5 million units in the next quarter. As a comparison, the Nexus 7 has sold 2 million units to date. Even 5 million units would put them well short of the iPad which moved 17 million units last quarter.