As I promised back in August, those rumors of a $199 Surface tablet were completely unfounded: Microsoft will price its Windows RT version of the Surface at $500 to $800, in line with pricing for Apple’s trend-setting iPad. And those wonderful clip-on keyboard covers will set you back another $120 or more.
Sometime on Tuesday, Microsoft will officially announce the pricing and availability strategy for its Surface devices, including plans to deliver them internationally. But there’s no need to wait: A basic Surface tablet PC running Windows RT and sporting 32GB of eMMC storage will cost $499 in the United States. That unit comes with no cover, however. Other versions of the Surface for Windows RT cost $599 and $699, and add a cover and 64GB of storage, respectively.
You can find out more about Surface for Windows RT pricing in my article "Microsoft Surface: Pricing and Availability." The devices arrive October 26, alongside Windows 8, and will be sold exclusively through Microsoft Stores, online and at retail, in the United States.
These devices all share similar components, including 2GB of RAM, an 11.6" 1366 x 768 display, a single USB 2.0 port, and HDMI video out. These specs will be common for Windows RT devices, which are based on the ARM platform and lack compatibility with third-party Windows desktop applications.
Compared with the iPad, the Surface offers a bigger screen and more storage for the same pricing. But the iPad offers a higher-resolution screen and comes with mobile broadband options. The Surface is Wi-Fi only. The Surface is comparable from a thickness and weight perspective to the iPad.
But what about that pricing?
I’ve previously repeated the theme that the iPad is too expensive and that Apple is gutting consumers at those price points. Microsoft, by following the iPad pricing scheme, is doing the same, unfortunately. But it’s likely that it’s doing so to ease tensions with its PC maker partners that are upset with Microsoft’s entry into this market. And because the Surface is seen as an aspirational device, the hope is that it will drive customers into stores, regardless of which Windows-based device they end up purchasing.
Still, the high price of the Surface for Windows RT devices is surprising to some. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer previously said that Surface pricing would align with the “sweet spot” of traditional PCs. I noted at the time that this meant the Surface would cost about $500 to $830, which is of course exactly what happened. But this is just for the Windows RT version of Surface: Versions utilizing Intel chipsets will likely cost hundreds more. Those devices won’t ship until early 2013, however.
Microsoft isn’t fazed by the criticism. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the firm has ordered its component suppliers to build up to 5 million Surface tablets in the coming quarter and is planning “large volume production” of the devices.