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
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
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).