Microsoft Hints That Surface Won’t Be $199

    September 17, 2012
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

Microsoft’s Surface tablet is a real work of art. I’m not one to get excited about mobile computing, but the Surface is the first tablet that made me want to get into mobile computing. The integrated cover/keyboard had a lot to do with that, but I’ve also been excited over the rumored $199 price point. It appears that I, and many others, may have gotten our hopes up.

Microsoft CEO and celebrated chair thrower Steve Ballmer recently talked to the Seattle Times about a number of topics, but the Surface did come up early on in the conversation. Ballmer was asked if the Surface would compete with the iPad on features, price, or both. His response, while illuminating, doesn’t inspire that much confidence.

I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device. … (When) people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they’re chintzier, they’re cheaper.

If you say to somebody, would you use one of the 7-inch tablets, would somebody ever use a Kindle (Kindle Fire, $199) to do their homework? The answer is no; you never would. It’s just not a good enough product. It doesn’t mean you might not read a book on it….

If you look at the bulk of the PC market, it would run between, say, probably $300 to about $700 or $800. That’s the sweet spot.

I do agree that cheaper tablets look bad, but to discredit the Kindle Fire or Nexus 7 as being cheap is a disservice to the great work those two tablets are doing in the 7-inch arena. Granted, you can’t do homework on those tablets, but you can’t do homework on most tablets. That’s still the specialty of laptops and desktops. It’s a moot point.

Therein lies the problem that Microsoft is facing with the Surface. They want to price it like a PC. That works for the iPad because it has the software that justifies the price for many loyalists. Microsoft doesn’t have that level of brand loyalty and the software shown off for Surface so far is less than inspiring. It’s great that I can get Office on the Surface, but where are the new entertainment options? Will Surface feature connectivity to the Xbox 360 in a meaningful way? These are the questions that Microsoft will have to answer in the coming month.

I think we can all give up on a $199 Surface at this point in time, but a $299 Surface wouldn’t be that bad. Here’s hoping Microsoft keeps things cheap instead of trying to market the Surface as being worth the price of a mid-range Intel-based desktop. Competing with the iPad in terms of pricing would be about the worst thing Microsoft could do at this point. They have to undermine Apple’s device somewhere and price is about the only thing they have at this point.

I expect we’ll get an official price on the Surface later this month. With the tablet launching at the end of October, Microsoft can’t afford to keep things in the dark for much longer. People have to know whether or not they’re going to have the money to put down on the admittedly sleek and beautiful piece of hardware that Microsoft has designed.

  • larry backer

    Why should Microsoft compete with IPAD?
    IPAD is more like an MP3 player than a PC. Steve Jobs was so busy selling “toasters” that he forgot that a lot of us wanted “refrigerators” (Ultrabook PCs)

    Surface will compete on price. The MS competition is overpriced Ultrabooks, not IPADS. Microsoft can go after the high dollar Ultrabook market, and leave the under $200 market to ANDROID devices. They are the real IPAD competition.

    I am happy that Microsoft entered the portable PC market. It was needed. Apple had the Ultrabook high dollar market sewed up. The MS hardware associates did not have a credible entry in that race. They were thicker, heavier, more expensive, and had dismal battery life.

    Apple could play in the mass Ultrabook market if they:

    1. Made a copy of the “Airbook” that sells cheaply and runs an MS OS.

    2. Put a keyboard, USB connector, and Memory chip slot on IPAD with a decent price and an MS OS.

    I applaud MS for forcing the issue. Whether Surface is a hit or a flop, it will change the shape and cost of portable computing. It probably won’t be as influential in portable entertainment. I don’t think it was meant to.

    This may be the year of the cheap ultrabook and the productive tablet.

  • Iain

    Well, this does leave me just a little bit put out, I’ll be the first one to admit it; I was gushing over that price from the first time I heard about it. But I SINCERELY do hope that Microsoft decides to keep the price to a sub-$600 value, especially for the RT edition; all I need is a simple tablet for in-class note taking and on-the-go homework and possibly entertainment. But knowing me, I would likely do more in my spare time with it, so this tablet will be perfect for my needs… whatever Microsoft decides to do, I’m cool with, as long as they don’t pull a Steve Jobs (RIP) and get too competitive with it…

  • http://www.inkandimage.biz Max Soucia

    If I wanted something to play games on I’d get an Android 4.x tablet. It will be awhile before developers get enough games into the MS store to make an RT worthwhile for me. I can use my phone when I want to waste time. I’m looking for a light weight laptop/notebook with a touchscreen, and if I can find a touchscreen monitor for my PC that I can lay flat on my desk and work, I’ll get Win 8 for my desktop too. Its been reported that the RT will be on the shelves Oct 26 but the pro won’t be out until 90 days later, that’s after Christmas. I have to ask, why?

  • jehns

    If the effort is to not disturb the other company’s momentum, the $300 start price should help. Less than $200, surface and windows are a hit.

  • veggiedude

    I think $299 is wishful thinking. More like $499, which would be the same price point as the iPad.