Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, recently spoke with the Seattle Times about the status of the company, all of the upcoming releases, and what the company plans to do over the next 10 years. While Ballmer only touched the surface of the Surface, his response was revealing in its vagueness.
Ballmer told the Seattle Times that Microsoft had not yet announced a price for its upcoming line of Surface tablets, but he did offer a range that he believes is “the sweet spot.” He doesn’t think the iPad is particularly expensive. “When people offer cheaper, they do less,” said Ballmer. “They look less good, they’re chintzier, they’re cheaper.”
When it comes to size and price, Ballmer believes that the larger tablet, complete with fast processors and hard-working internal technology is better than low-cost. “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…” said Ballmer.
Although the range is fairly broad, Ballmer told the Seattle Times to expect the line of Surface tablets to range between $300 and $700 or $800. The Windows RT model, which runs on Nvidia, is more like a casual browsing tablet, meant for people who will use it for playing games, checking emails and surfing the web. The Windows RT will likely fall under the $300 price point– the expected price point of the upcoming iPad mini.
The Windows 8 Pro model is more of a workhorse, and will compete head to head with the latest iPad. Microsoft intended this device to be a laptop with a touch screen. It will be capable of heavy content creation and will likely be the darling of enterprise since the company’s signature line of productivity apps will work seamlessly on it. The Windows 8 Pro will probably cost around $700 or $800. A hefty price, to be sure, but it sounds like it will pay off for people looking for a lightweight mobile device that can really deliver the productivity goods.
The question is whether either model will be able to compete, given that Apple already dominates the high end tablet market, and is about to launch the iPad mini, a smaller and cheaper version of the iPad, designed to address the low cost tablet segment that Apple has been neglecting so far. Microsoft is entering the market at a time when the iPad has become the standard by which all tablets are compared. The RT seems like it won’t be as good as the iPad, while Windows 8 Pro seems like it will be too much to handle. Just like in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” the iPad again seems the device that is just right for the average consumer in the tablet market.