Before Microsoft announced its brand new Surface tablet yesterday, the company gave its PC partners advanced notification that it would be entering the hardware tablet arena.
In an interview with All Things D, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that Microsoft let its partners know ahead of time so there would be no nasty surprises. “Our PC partners knew in advance we were announcing something today in this space,” he said.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet will run Windows 8, and by all accounts, it is situated to be a serious iPad competitor, a status that other PC vendors have been unable to attain. When Ballmer was asked how Microsoft’s partners felt about the tablet, he only replied, “no comment.”
I think we can all imagine how those partners are feeling (hopeless, would be my guess) after seeing the impressive specs of the Surface. The Surface will likely outsell tablets from partners like Dell, Acer, and Lenovo.
The RT version of the tablet is sporting an Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU while the Pro version boasts an Intel Core i5. Both tablets are 10.6 inches, weigh approximately 1.5 pounds, and are 0.36 inches thick, putting them on par with Apple’s similarly sized iPad.
It’s important that Microsoft not alienate its partners, something that Ballmer recognizes. “If you look at the bulk of the 375 million machines that get sold, they probably aren’t going to be Surfaces,” he said. The Surface, he added, is an important part of the “Windows 8 story,” but it is not “the only piece.
Of course, Microsoft was tight-lipped about pricing at yesterday’s announcement, and also conveniently left out information on the tablet’s battery life, both of which are make or break factors in the tablet world. Microsoft’s Surface will need to come with an affordable price tag, but just how low is low enough?
According to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, the Surface needs to be priced at or below the $199 that the Kindle Fire costs. A price so low would almost certainly mean Microsoft would take a loss on hardware.
Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White has a slightly more realistic target price in mind – at less than $399, the price of the iPad 2.
As for hints on pricing, Microsoft has said is that it will be in line with other ARM-based tablets for the lower end RT version of the tablet, while the Pro version will be priced to compete with Ultrabooks. That could mean prices ranging from $300 to over $1000.
Microsoft is expected to release more information on the tablets closer to release date, which will be sometime this fall.