back to article '$199' Surface tablets: So crazy it might work, or just crazy?

If the latest Redmond rumors are to be believed, Microsoft's ARM-based Surface tablet models could arrive priced as low as $199, positioning them as heavyweights in the burgeoning low-cost tablet category. Engadget reports that the $199 price point was unveiled at the recent TechReady 15 conference, an internal technical event …

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Anonymous Coward

I call bull

But if they can keep the cost under £250 with a decent keyboard and battery life I might be tempted.

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Boffin

"internal event"

I'm guessing this $199 price point is for Microsoft employees getting a generous 30-50% discount it being announced at a MS employee only event.

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Meh

doubtful

Or will they sell them at a loss like the Kindle Fire to encourage buyers and hope they can make money out of content.

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Re: doubtful

The only problem I see is that MS don't make content but I could see them following Apple and demanding a 30% cut of everyone who has their content signed so it can be sold inside the walls.

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Re: "internal event"

There's not a chance it will be released for that price. I'd only believe it if I actually saw it and even then I'd double-check. Maayyybeee to MS employees, but to the public, not a chance.

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It's about time prices came down

These devices need to be more affordable is they're to achieve mass market acceptance. £500+ for a enlarged smartphone without a phone suggests a HUGE gross margin.

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kb
Windows

Re: "internal event"

Actually it has a good chance of being released at that price, as that is how MSFT was able to get into the console market and take a good chunk of the business. Its a classic "razor and blades" play where you sell the units at a loss and hope to make a profit on the 30% per app or content they intend to charge anyone using the Windows appstore.

Personally I still think its gonna bomb, because people are gonna see the name "Windows" and automatically assume it'll run their Windows programs and when it don't? Right back it'll go. On the plus side all those returns should end up on Woot! for like $50 so if you want a cheap tablet to play with it might be worth checking out 6 months after release. But between the new iPad and the Fire i just don't see people lining up for the fugly Metro-UI, or whatever they are calling it this week.

The big question though is whether the EU will try to get them for product dumping or antitrust since the whole way the R&B model works is by selling below cost and we all know the EU don't like MSFT none.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: doubtful

The only problem I see is that MS don't make content

Excuse me?

You do know MS is primarily a SOFTWARE company.

As stated it comes bundled with a preview of office 2013 which you can upgrade to,read buy.

Then there is i.e. with Bing as default search no doubt

Skydrive (with larger storage options at a cost)

MSN (or whatever it is this week) with those lovely ads

Outlook

Skype

Lync

and on and on

Then of course the will be all the sales of Visual Studio, Sharepoint, Exchange and SQL that drive a lot of above.

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Re: doubtful

content != software

Content is third party apps, music, videos, books, etc.

MS has so far failed to create much of a market for any of the above. iOS is arguably still the market leader for general content, Amazon is doing very well with books and will likely move to movies-on-Kindle within the next year or two, and Android is bringing up the rear if anyone wants an alternative.

Being able to run Office on a cheap tablet is going to appeal to a lot of people. But content it ain't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: doubtful

"The only problem I see is that MS don't make content but I could see them following Apple and demanding a 30% cut of everyone who has their content signed so it can be sold inside the walls."

...you mean like they already do with XBox Live?

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Re: doubtful

With the greatest of respect, you sir, are a knob. Microsoft don't make content??? What the fuck do you think Office is? Microsoft make LOADS of software including a shit load of games and I can guaranfuckingtee that games from the xBox will make their way on to the Surface.

And as for the tool that wrote the article, it may well be that Microsoft release the Surface at $199 but that also guarantees that the $199 version will come sans keyboard, trackpad and stylus as well as having lower storage and these will be sold separately for, wait for it, a PROFIT.

Personally I'm really looking forward to the launch of Surface and once businesses start handing them out to staff instead of laptops you'll see a huge leap in market share and take-up of Windows 8. It's time that the company who ACTUALLY brought us tablet computing gets it right and I think the 16:9 ratio, the screen resolution and the fact that people are so used to Windows will mean that this is an absolute winner. I've got an iPad BTW so don't go calling me a hater or any such bollocks, I just can't stand MS bashing for the sake of it, same when people slag Apple despite them getting stuff right. If there's one platform that sucks on tablet it's Android. That's why there are still millions of them on shelves while Apple can't keep up with demand.

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Re: doubtful

It's time that the company who ACTUALLY brought us tablet computing gets it right and I think the 16:9 ratio, the screen resolution and the fact that people are so used to Windows will mean that this is an absolute winner.

This isn't Windows this is Windows RT it runs the 'Modern UI' that punters are unfamiliar with, it has no Desktop and your chained to the Appstore. At $199 people may be tempted until they look at more than the price and they see an unfamiliar and unintuitive UI.

As for 16:9 ratio being a selling point... Don't make me laugh

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Re: doubtful

You don't need to question it they already do it .

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Re: doubtful

@Hooksie

With the greatest of respect, you sir, are a knob. Microsoft don't make content??? What the fuck do YOU think Office is?

Personally I think Office (2007 or later) is a load of shite, but that's slightly off topic.

Office is not content, content on a fondle slab is something you consume, music, video, games, fart generators and other useful apps. Office is a tool for creating content, although based on the PHB's last powerpoint offering, I use the term 'content' with a very loose meaning.

Link: And why can't crApple can't keep up with demand for iProduct, possibly because there aren't enough Alices' in the world.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "internal event"

If they can sell it at $199, they won't be able to make enough of them. In fact, I would expect shortages that will enable retailers to charge more than list price, as sometimes has happened with fairly recent ATI gfx cards. I wonder if MS will be able to prohibit that.

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Re: doubtful

Most of MSl software is aimed at businesses and isn't the sort of thing most consumers want so they can't count on that to make their money back. So unless it's completely closed off to 3rd party development or they do something like xbox and basically force you to have a subscription, they can't make their money if they're sold at a loss.

To me, if it's true this is the price and it is sold at a significant loss, that sounds an awful like dumping and an abuse of their OS monopoly to gain control of another market. So if that is the case someone better come down on their asses.

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Devil

Re: I call bull

If they throw in hookers & blow I might be tempted. Until then I'll pass on Win8

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Re: doubtful

We must agree to disagree then sir since for me 'content' is software which is installed on top of an existing operating system whether that be useful or not. Microsoft will also be able to charge for the rest of their big staple products under the CAL system for any corporate partners. Microsoft make lots of software, they just don't usually charge for it since it comes bundled into the OS.

And to the person who rightly commented on my faux pas regarding people being familiar with Windows, what I meant was that they are familiar with the windows ecosystem and effectively "trust" Microsoft where they might not trust Google ( and rightly so) I really don't see how anyone can call Metro unintuitive (except for how to switch it off :) )

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Re: doubtful

The only problem I see is that MS don't make content but I could see them following Apple and demanding a 30% cut of everyone who has their content signed so it can be sold inside the walls.

Already happening, Windows RT is the first walled-garden version of Windows.

Specifically, with Windows RT the only source of software is the Microsoft Store. As per iOS, you cannot install software from anywhere else (until the device is jail-broken) and Microsoft runs the store on the same agency model as everyone else so get their 30% take of everyone's paid apps.

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Re: doubtful

"We must agree to disagree then sir since for me 'content' is software which is installed on top of an existing operating system"

Given the tone of your original response, you're obviously a paid shrill. But why stop there, I suppose we'll all just refer to the OS as just content installed on top of the existing hardware regardless of how stupid it sounds calling an OS content. Oh sorry, I'll translate so you understand, "... how fucking stupid it sounds...". I do hope I didn't confuse you further by using ellipses.

In the normal world it's pretty simple really. A book full of blank pages isn't content but it is useful for generating and editing content and it's the words and/or pictures that are put on the pages that is the content. You can tell because many books have a table of contents that would be rather short for a blank book. Since MS Word is effectively digital paper it doesn't qualify as content. That said, if blank pages are what blows your hair back, go ahead and call it content but don't expect many people to understand. Again, sorry, "... go right the fuck ahead and call it whatever the fuck you want to..." Better, M'kay?

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Re: doubtful

> As for 16:9 ratio being a selling point...

The Surface with attached keyboard is forced to be landscape only. Tablets and eBook readers tend to used portrait where 16:9 ratio is even more awful.

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Linux

Re: doubtful

> What the fuck do you think Office is?

Tired old legacy software. That's what it is.

People buy tablets to get away from legacy cruft like that and purveyors of it such as yourself.

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"It's about time prices came down" - To what, exactly?

I'm curious what prices you're comparing against what. A new iPad starts around £400, and while a new phone through a carrier is only £100 or so, a new phone without a carrier is more in the £450 range. For a slate, which loses only the cell and 3G/4G radio, but has a screen something like 4 times areal size, to cost about the same suggests either the phones are immensely overpriced (They'll definitely be a bit over-priced, sales volumes and such.) or that slate margin's are terribly small. (The OS being the primary differentiator, the actual HW is slowly becoming a commodity, like the PC space, makes me think that is slowly becoming the case.)

- Comparing iPad cost to O2 subsidized iPhone cost, to unlocked Galaxy S3 cost.

- I'm a murrican. These numbers are fictional to me.

- I'm also not someone whose job has anything to do with money.

- Holy crap, if someone brought their own phone onto a plan and pays the same amount someone with a subsidized phone does for service, it's insane how much they're getting effed over.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: doubtful

" MS is primarily a SOFTWARE company"

Really !!?? Are you sure ?

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Anonymous Coward

You would have to be an idiot

to believe this..

This RUMOUR is to try and stop Google selling even more Nexus7 devices. They never need to sell it at that price, they just need to stop Google selling them at at price until they are ready (which sounds like another 6 months away).

This is LAME stalling tactics by Microsoft, and you would have to be a fucking moron to not be able to see past it.

Good luck for anyone holding out for this....

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Re: doubtful

> Personally I'm really looking forward to the launch of Surface and once businesses start handing them out to staff instead of laptops you'll see a huge leap in market share and take-up of Windows 8.

Oh yes, just like it worked when businesses handed out Lumias to their staff.

By the way, probably not too smart to call El Reg writers 'tools' on their own forum, either.

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Re: It's about time prices came down

I agree, though that's the good thing about Windows 8 - the first tablet OS that will be a full blown PC, not an oversided phone.

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Re: doubtful

It's true Windows RT doesn't have the benefit of the familiar traditional Windows UI - but I don't think the lack of that will keep people away (otherwise, no one would be buying Android and Apple tablets at the moment).

Also consider the effect once people get used to the new Windows 8 (both "desktop" and Metro) when they upgrade their normal PCs (or use them at work, or whatever). If they then look for a cheap laptop, Windows RT will in time have the advantage of a familiar UI (as well being more compatible in lots of other ways - e.g, easier to network - I have no idea how I might get Android to read/write my local network, but I presume Windows RT it would be as easy as with Windows 7.)

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Re: You would have to be an idiot

If this rumour is false (as seems highly likely), I very much doubt it's MS putting it out. This rumour has the risk of being devstating - if it sets people's expectations of the Surface being $199, and then it comes out at say $599, it'll be a disaster, even if the $599 price would otherwise be perfectly reasonable. (Hopefully though, most people will realise the rumour is unlikely to be true.)

This is the kind of low tactic that Apple would play - indeed, it seems that many of the tech stories in the news seem to be Apple press releases.

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Linux

Re: I call bull

Microsoft knows it can't survive in the smart phone market with 1.5% market share.

Selling Surface tablets at dumping prices does have the chance to fix that.

Would I pay full price for a Windows RT tablet with limited functionality and the stink of two recent smartphone OS abortions? Not a chance! If I wanted a tablet with a keyboard and a stylus at full price, I'd go with a Samsung and buy a third party cover with integrated bluetooth keyboard to go with that, knowing I'd have apps for dictation, translation and everything else I might need readily available.

Same reason everybody buys Windows machines in the PC space... you can have software to do even the most rare tasks with a simple web search.

So with Windows RT not running any of my existing software I'm rather partial to, I simply would never pick up a Surface tablet at "regular" price.

If its $199, I'll even pre-order it, cause I know, worst case, I can just use it as a convenient music playback device hanging on the wall.

At @199, I consider it a no-risk purchase, and I think thats what M$ is aiming for.... they've done this before, and in this case, its their last hope from starting a slow slide into oblivion.

And don't forget that M$ is aiming for the big AppStore tollbooth! So its like giving away shavers to sell lots of blades later.

Automatic TollBooths are Microsoft's holy grail.

They should just find ways to give cash to OEMs who fulfill whatever Microsoft's favored quality requirements are, so they can sell at the same dumping prices M$ does. Then again, that might be illegal...

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Anonymous Coward

That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

and 301 quid knocked off because you have to take Windows 8 with it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

Windows 8 on a tablet will be great, it just sucks for all the desktop users out there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

Everybody keeps saying that Windows 8 with a touchscreen will be great (usually after they say that, they complain about it for the desktop) but I don't understand the rationale.

Okay, let's assume there's a small advantage to "live tiles." I'm not convinced, but for the sake of argument...

After that, what makes "metro mode" Windows 8 one single iota better than either iOS or Android? Obviously not the selection of software. I also don't see any meaningful difference between the UI elements that have been made public and those in iOS or Android. They all have buttons and scroll lists and stuff. Then you have the programming model, i.e., yet another API to learn but this one has COM. (We all love COM, right?)

So seriously, why should anybody buy this thing other than the ability to drop into desktop-looking Windows and run Office (and that's it)?

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Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

Microsoft's touch UI has some nice features. For example, other touch UIs use a long-press to get to their equivalent of a right-click menu. That slows you down because you have to wait the set time for the OS to register it as a long-press. Microsoft do this nudging thing instead. More generally, Microsoft have not just blindly copied Apple. They've looked at their competitors and tried to figure out better ways.

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Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

Haaaaaaaaave youusedityet?? Been playing around with it since the first customer preview and I think that the assessment of "great for tablet, not for desktop" is about right, until you get touchscreen laptops and monitors being more ubiquitous.

It's fun. And that's the key seller for me, like iOS, it just works, it looks cool and it does some nice little things that make you smile and go "ooh, cool" (of course then you try to figure out how to switch it off and spend the next 10 minutes looking for the shut down option :) ) It feels fresh and modern and you know what, it grows on you. When I first saw it I thought "what the hell is this crap, where's my desktop" but depending on your use case you don't really NEED the desktop.

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Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

>depending on your use case you don't really NEED the desktop.

Two years from now the market will clearly answer that question. Or maybe not as M$ has shown a willingness to take a bath for years on products nobody likes or uses (cough Bing).

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Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

It does? Having tested out Windows 8 on a laptop without touchscreen, I find I can use it just as well as Windows 7 with keyboard and mouse. The standard windows UI is still there unchanged (unlike the disaster that is Unity on Ubuntu, with their attempts to make it touch friendly, that just messes it up for everyone); the full screen mode still seems usable with mouse and keyboard, and the start screen works just the same as on Windows 7 with mouse or keyboard, but making full use of the screen space.

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Re: That's 500 dollars for the hardware.

Well maybe it's not that much better, but you could say the same each of IOS and Android - why get either of those, and not anything else?

"other than the ability to drop into desktop-looking Windows and run Office (and that's it)?"

Which are pretty big things in themselves. What are the reasons to get IOS or Android tablets over Windows 8? And don't tell me "apps" - raw counts are useless as a measure of software availability on different platforms. Especially for tablets and phones, where most the "apps" are pointless website-wrappers advertising for a company.

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Anonymous Coward

Pre-Pre-Announced Device to cost $199

What's the cost of manufacture of the hardware and how much of a hit is Microsoft taking on this pre-pre-announced product. I don't know any other company or business that announces an upgrade of a yet-to-be-released device?

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Anonymous Coward

$199.... That raised my eyebrow. I've been looking closely at tablets lately, trying to get a feel for what they can do for me verses cost. That price would be about right.

I like the Ipads, but the cost is just too much so it's out. But, with rumors of a smaller Ipad coming, the recent Nexus release, a new Kindle coming,etc.... It's going to get interesting. I had'nt even considered a MS device, but at $199, I would definitely give it a look. This is going to be the Christmas for tablets. Everyone I speak to is talking about getting one for themselves or their kids.

I'll probably get a few thumbs down, but hey, what do they actually get me anyway? You can already see this sites followers are linux lovers.

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Anonymous Coward

How much do the verses cost?

not as much as the chorus.

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Indeed - tablets will become mainstream, but only when they become low cost, cheaper than say more functional netbooks (perhaps tablets are the thing to finally give us the £100 computer). It won't be Apple that popularised tablets, it will be low cost Android (or Windows RT) tablets. At £400, a tablet is an oversized phone that can't be used as a phone, and is money I could be better spending on a phone or PC. But at £100 or less, well, I might end up with 2 or 3 tablets of various different sizes just dotted around the house.

(Alternatively, tablets will be mainstream when every Windows 8 laptop is marketed as a "tablet" on the grounds that it also has a touchscreen... - again, Windows, not Apple.)

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Meh

"and although Microsoft has not disclosed its display resolution, it is rumored to be higher than that of the Nexus 7"

1366x768 is only very slightly sharper than 1280x800 and for many people the latter is preferable due to aspect ratio

299 is doable

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JC_
WTF?

1366x768 is only very slightly sharper than 1280x800 and for many people the latter is preferable due to aspect ratio

Indeed, when writing code on my tablet I do appreciate the extra visible line I get from having 32 more vertical pixels...

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Flame

"......analysts were expecting Surface devices running Windows RT to retail for $599"

The analysts were talking bollocks then and the rumour mongers are talking bollocks now. The $599 price tag was way to high unless MS wanted to cut their own throats by overpricing and the $199 is way too low unless MS want to etc etc..... $299 I could pretend to believe. Glad to see that the author is equally sceptical.

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Anonymous Coward

It's only really interesting if hackers can get CM10 on it. Otherwise you'd be stuck with Metro - and given it's microsoft, that would be a resource hungry dogs breakfast.

$199 only makes sense if Office is at least $99 - and you also need Win8 on the desktop to make it work. Balmer must be puckered with the fear than ms is going down the pan under his watch.

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Anonymous Coward

hungry

but of course android is so efficient that you dont realy need multy cores just to get it to run smoothly,and does'nt burn battery like a bad mad thing ?

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Re: hungry

Spoken like someone who has never used ICS or JB.

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Re: hungry

[insert rude comment here]

About how no-one has used ICS and JB, because it's only been available on a tiny number of devices so far.

And in fact upgrades to ICS have been stalled, because the manufacturers can't get the older hardware to run it properly. Or have claimed this anyway... I've also seen plenty of comments from users who've upgraded tablets to ICS and said it runs like treacle.

Windows Mobile 7 may (or may not) be crap, but it runs really nicely on single core chips, which modern Android OSes don't. Windows 8 previews have tested faster on the same hardware than Windows 7. So there's a good chance that it won't be a horribly slow dog.

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Re: hungry

Single data point ... ICS (CM9) runs like a dog on a Captivate. I stepped through a bunch of the nightly builds, the RCs and the stable release. While they got better as they went it's still massively slower than CM 7.2. From my inexpert perusal it looks like it expects multi cores and lotsa memory.

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