Microsoft Starts 32GB Surface Pricing at $499, Same as 16GB iPad

| Product News

At long last—and just in the nick of time before Apple announces the iPad mini—Microsoft has announced pricing and availability for its Surface RT tablets. The company put the device up for pre-order with pricing for a 32GB model starting at US$499, the same as Apple's entry level 16GB iPad (3rd generation), and they will ship on October 26th.

Microsoft Surface for Windows RT

Microsoft Surface for Windows RT

For $599, customers can get the Black Touch Cover, a cover for the device that has a built-in touch keyboard . $699 will get you 64GB of storage with the Touch Cover. You can order standalone Touch Covers in various colors for $119, while a black Type Cover with a full set of function keys is priced at $129.

Surface with Touch Cover

Surface with Touch Cover

The base price also includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview. Microsoft said that the final Office Home and Student 2013 RT version will be installed via Windows Update when available for free.

We should also note that though priced the same as Apple's 16GB iPad, Microsoft's 32GB Surface for Windows RT has a much lower resolution display, 1366 x 768 compared to the iPad's 2048 x 1536. It remains to be seen if consumers will care about the distinction, but it does demonstrate Apple's economy-of-scale pricing advantage.

Microsoft announced Surface during a media event in June. The company introduced two forms of the Surface, Surface with Windows RT with ARM processors, and Surface for Windows 8 Pro, a higher end model based on Intel processors.

The company did not, however, announce pricing or availability, making Tuesday's announcement an important one in understanding how the tablet market will shape up for the holiday season and beyond. We should also note that Surface for Windows 8 Pro is still listed as "Coming Soon."

There has been much speculation about pricing for Surface for Windows RT, and in August Engadget reported the device would debut at $199. That was apparently slightly inaccurate. The company has instead priced the device at the high end of the market alongside Apple's massively successful iPad.

Microsoft said that devices pre-ordered will be delivered on October 26th, 2012. That's three days after Apple's October 23rd media event, where Apple is expected to announce a 7.x-inch iPad and possibly an updated form factor for the new iPad (3rd generation).

The Mac Observer Spin The Mac Observer Spin is how we show you what our authors think about a news story at quick glance. Read More →

Spin: We believe that Microsoft has been debating its pricing strategy for Surface all along. Go cheap to try and gain a toehold in the market like Amazon and Google and take a loss, or position your device at the high end with the iPad? Clearly the iPad is the better company to keep, and we think Microsoft made the right decision.

The company's margins are going to be stretched thin as it is, even with the lower resolution display and smaller battery (we'll be doing a new spec comparison shortly), and the reality is that the company's long-term prospects in this market are better served by showing that its Surface is valuable product.

The inclusion of the RT version of Office is also a smart move. Yes, Microsoft is giving up sales of Office, but this is the value-added freebie that will make Surface RT much more desirable for many customers, even if it's initially a preview version, and even if it's not fully compatible with regular Office.

The tablet market is going to be much more interesting with Microsoft as a real participant than it has been. Competition between Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung is going to push all of these companies into working harder for our hardware dollars.

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2 Comments

Jamie

Hmm. . . .

To me, the inclusion of Office actually reduces the product’s differentiation; how is this not just a touch enabled netbook (not to mention that for those of us who don’t work in office environments, in this day and age of PDFs, it’s hardly a killer app) with a different form factor? It almost makes the touch capability feel like a gimmick to me, it feels like more of, ‘It’s the same . . . but DIFFERENT!’ we constantly get from Microsoft. Everything they make feels like ‘The Homer’ (http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/The_Homer). I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Definitely no plans to scrap the iPad for one.

shameer.mulji

@Jamie

“....how is this not just a touch enabled netbook….”

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the Surface.  But that’s what some people out there want.

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