An unnamed source is stating that a session held at Microsoft's recent TechReady 15 conference laid out all the launch details for Windows 8, including the company's plans for its Surface tablets. According to the source, Microsoft plans to launch the ARM-based Surface RT tablet on October 26 starting at a meager $199 USD.
Is this price point even possible? The specs indicate otherwise unless Microsoft plans to take a huge hit in the wallet for each unit. The gadget will supposedly come packed with a Tegra-based SoC, a 10.6-inch ClearType HD capacitive touch panel, a microSD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, microHD video, and Office Home & Student 2013 RT not to mention Windows RT itself. Storage capacities will be 32 GB and 64 GB.
On Friday Acer chairman JT Wang, who has been extremely vocal about Microsoft's plans to produce the two Surface tablets, acknowledged that Microsoft is currently evaluating pricing that would minimize the negative impact on Windows 8 partners trying to sell their own tablets. But Wang also warned the Redmond company not to price its gadgets at the $199 level, as it would have a significant, negative impact on partners. Instead, the Surface tablets should retail for $499 to $599.
So far Surface pricing is a big mystery. "Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability, and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC," Microsoft previously stated. That statement doesn't reveal anything other than expect tablets to range in the iPad and Ultrabook region, not the Kindle Fire price range.
Indeed, the Surface RT specs do not indicate a $199 pricepoint. Just look at the just-launched Nexus 7 which sports a 7-inch 1280 x 800 HD IPS display (216 ppi), a quad-core Tegra 3 SoC, no microSD, no USB 2.0, no video output, and no office suite pre-installed. The 8 GB model is $199 whereas the 16 GB model is $249. Microsoft offering a 10.6-inch tablet for $199 seems out of the question.
Of course, Microsoft could take the initial hit in the wallet and make up the difference in sales of the keyboard cover, media and apps. The big deal here is that this media will likely be accessible on multiple devices including desktops, Windows Phone and the Xbox consoles. We may get a better understanding of what's going on when Microsoft introduces the first Windows 8 Product Upgrade right after the launch this October.
However one thing to keep in mind is Microsoft's relentless determination in conquering the tablet market. The company has set its sights on Apple primarily, and offering an ARM-based 10-inch Windows tablet would kick Apple right where it really hurts: in the bushel.