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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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Re: hungry

> 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.

You have made a completely incompetent comparison. Windows Phone 7 has no relationship to Windows 7 at all except for the number. WP7 is based on CE, it runs 'nicely' on single core because it cannot multi-task (except via a mechanism similar to MS-DOS TSRs), apps put into background are tombstoned.

WP8 which you allude to is (allegedly) based on Windows 8/RT and is not derived from WP7.

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Linux

Re: hungry

So newer versions of Android run like a dog on older kit? Big deal. So does pretty much anything. This even includes the magical PhoneOS. This is why my local iFan is eyeballing an upgrade to a Galaxy S3.

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Re: hungry

> Windows Mobile 7 may (or may not) be crap, but it runs really nicely on single core chips

Well, dog's testicles saute very nicely in a frying pan, but that doesn't mean we should eat them.

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Happy

Re: hungry

Cthoolhio,

So you're saying that Windows Mobile 7 is so brilliant. That it's the dog's bollocks?

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Re: hungry

And the AC above has never used Windows 8.

MS have been making strides in improving efficiency since the bloated days of Vista - each new iteration of Windows these days is requiring less, despite technology advancing. And whilst I like Android, he has a point - it's not like smartphones these days are using tiny hardware. Phones these days have multicore CPUs and a GB or more of RAM, just like Windows PCs

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Holmes

Microsoft seem more than willing to lose cash to push their Windows 8 agenda. Given that they are fairly far behind at this point loss leaders will need to be that little bit extra tempting to pull people in.

I wouldn't be pick me up off the floor surprised if this price was around the actual figure for the Microsoft store restricted ARM version.

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you had better believe it. Remember how many billions they throw down on the XBox and only recently started pulling in a positive cash flow on the product line. Wasn't it $3 billion they wrote off in just one year due to faulty hardware designs?

Microsoft will spend billions on this because they need to shut Apple and Android growth down or risk more of the Windows revenue streams losses to those competitors.

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And why shouldn't they. Google have written an OS and given it away for free, so they can dominate and make money from smartphone software/content. Apple have tens of billions stashed in the bank, solely to use to "destroy Android" - and it tooks years of wall-to-wall media hype before Iphone sales finally struggled to be comparable to mainstream companies like Samsung and Nokia, or to get anywhere close to Blackberry and Symbian. Today Apple are spending shitloads on Ipad, Iphone and laptop ads, in a struggle to remain relevant in the face of domination from Android and Windows. It's called marketing, and MS are sensible to be doing this just like anyone else.

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Anonymous Coward

Well they were giving Windows Phones away weren't they not...

They'll just milk more from Android licenses to pay for it.

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Well, I've lost track of the number of "Win a free Ipod/Ipad/Iphone/Istale" ads - can't even give them away it seems, and still Apple lose massively to Android. So instead they have to go after Samsung for "rounded rectangle" licenses.

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Pint

Here's to nostalgia

This brings back fond memories of the days that Microsoft and Wang could regularly be heard in the same sentence.

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obligatory question....

But, will it run PCLinuxOS?

It would be interesring to see KDE running on it. Ms would go bonkers, though. If 199 and cm or linux could run stably, as much as i would dislike fattening the ms coffers, i could be very tempted if the pen and other peripherals work.

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Re: obligatory question....

> But, will it run PCLinuxOS?

No. It will have 'Secure Boot' without the option to turn it off (which x86 will have). Also the only software loadable will be from MS Appstore, so you won't be getting any FOSS stuff.

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Secure boot would not last long at $199

No DRM has survived determined attention from hackers. At $199, surface would receive lots of attention, and Microsoft losing money on each sale would add more. The only way you will see $199 is if you sign up for some lock-in ware at $20/month for 2 years increasing by $5 per month each year after that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: obligatory question....

No it will not. And 99.9999999999999999% of the worlds population have enough of a life not to care.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: obligatory question....

"And 99.9999999999999999% of the worlds population have enough of a life not to care....."

That's probably what the telcos who sold (and still advertise) subsidised-up-front contract mobile phones thought about the market for dodgy unlocking too. How's it working out for them?

In fact this reads like the same kind of approach; as others have noted, MS will sell the hardware subsidised up front and hope to make money over the months to come by selling overpriced contracts (or in this case overpriced apps in the MS App Store). And MS have done their very best (cryptographic boot, etc) to make sure that the equivalent of 'unlocking' is going to be difficult (at least on the ARM version for a while).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: obligatory question....

Ummm, riiiggghhht, yeahhhh........ Are you confusing unlocking a mobile phone from a particular network with unlocking a device so you can install different software? Because they are very different things......An easy mistake to make if you are still at primary school I guess.

The equivalent in the mobile world would be people loading Android or WinPhone on to their iPhone. And I do not see that happening. And once again, I reiterate my point that 99.9999999999999999% of the worlds population have enough of a life not to want to do it in the first place...

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Re: obligatory question....

Some of the bigger Linux people are considering paying the one of charge so Grub can be run to install whatever other OS you like. If they do, and they bring these out at $199 I will certainly be buying one and overloading it asap.

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Re: obligatory question....

"99.9999999999999999% of the worlds population have enough of a life not to want to do it in the first place"

So only 0.000000007 people then?

I care, and I'm at least one person. :P

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Anonymous Coward

Re: obligatory question....

Just to check, is this saying you like the hardware it's just the software you don't like? Good to see you are a MS supporter after all

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Re: Secure boot would not last long at $199

No DRM has survived determined attention from hackers.

Isn't PlayStation 3 secure these days, after Sony's security wobble with Geohot?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: obligatory question....

"Also the only software loadable will be from MS Appstore, so you won't be getting any FOSS stuff."

Why not - if FOSS projects can make Windows binaries available, what's to stop them making WinRT versions of their apps and submitting them to the MS Appstore?

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Linux

Re: obligatory question....

"Nobody wants to do it" yet there is such a vibrant modding scene even for Apple products.

You are preaching an obvious contradiction here. Reality does not agree with your rhetoric.

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Re: obligatory question....

> Why not - if FOSS projects can make Windows binaries available, what's

> to stop them making WinRT versions of their apps and submitting them to

> the MS Appstore?

Short answer: MS

MS wants to _sell_ stuff in the appstore so that it can take 30%. Freestuff has a 30% of zero, so why would MS accept the submission ?

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At a wild guess

>so why would MS accept the submission ?

Same reason Apple do, the submitter has to pay them an annual fee to put it in the store and they get bragging rights over the number of apps available - 100,000 (90% free) sounds better than 10,000 (all paid).

The biggest hurdle FOSS stuff has is the clash of ideology you get where the FOSS license says there have to be no barriers to distribution, but the OS/ecosystem only allows installation from one software repository.

It's unlikely we'll see a change in the curator/gatekeeper approach from the firms involved, there's too much money at stake. I guess there's a slight possibility that a clause will be added to the FOSS licenses to allow software to be distributed through those stores, but there's a lot of ideology at stake, so don't expect that any time soon either.

Ultimately, as always, it's the end users who lose out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: At a wild guess

There is no barrier - the FOSS software is still available for download from the original source. Most FOSS licenses don't care how the binaries are distributed, only how the source is distributed. It wasn't/isn't against the license for hardware distributers to include firmware based on beatbox or dd-wrt or a bunch of other FOSS tools, as long as the source is also made available.

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Re: At a wild guess

> There is no barrier

The FOSS projects will not raise a barrier, but Microsoft has control of what is in and what is not in the appstore. For example they have already said that no other web browser will be in the store. No Firefox, no Opera, nor any other. MS want to control the web browser so that searches go to Bing and downloads are under whatever control MS decides.

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Re: Secure boot would not last long at $199

PlayStation 3 is only useful if it can hook up to Sony to play games. so, if you wanna call it "secure", is that cause people either get sued or else they have a useless Playstation without the Sony link?

With a tablet computer, thats quite different. You have no need to connect to Microsoft once you boot another OS on it. You are not going to be illegally using M$ services.

You'll just be running your little tablet to do your little tasks off of M$' grid... so the kind of recourse Sony had with its playstation doesn't exist here.

I do wonder how the 30% cut for M$' app store works out when people offer free software... after all, 30% of zero is still zero... Will M$ have high signing fees like Nokia used to, to make free apps from small developers impossible?

I remember hating Symbian, not because it was clunky, but because signing fees were really high to protect big commercial developers from having to compete with small developers offering better features faster. You could only install apps from small developers by hacking Symbian, which was a nuisance.

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Joke

$199? Too expensive.

It'll end up costing $99 like the HP TouchPad.

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If it does...

I might actually buy one.

Otherwise...

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Original XBox Anyone?

The author's argument seemed sound to me at first, MS can't launch at $199 without losing a pile of money on hardware. Until I realized that actually they're probably happy to do just that.

Think back to the original XBox, MS is entering a market they've never really played in before, huge barriers to entry, household name giant type incumbents, and a market that's about to go from huge to ginormous. What do they do? Lose a pile of money on the first generation in order to gain market share and penetration. As a bonus, because it's a locked-in hardware device they got a lot of money back on games. By a certain point in the XBox 360's lifecycle they had even began to turn a profit on the hardware aspects of their operation.

Here we are again, big market that's still blowing up, dominant incumbents, locked hardware. Why wouldn't they recycle exactly what they did last time? What's not to like about how it turned out?

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

Worth adding that $199 is a psychologically important number and the price point of Nexus 7 as well as the book store monsters. Makes a lot of sense to target that number.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Original XBox Anyone?

Right. Except, for every other manufacturer other than the one making the Surface, selling a Win8 tablet will be nothing more than an exercise in futility. Tablets in the 10" area are having problems enough competing with the iPad's price. imagine competing with their new 'frenemy' on a price point they couldn't possible match.

People complain about PC manufacturers not having any design sense, but with margins as low as that, there's simply not enough room to go the extra mile.

Should this rumour be true (I doubt it though), it is an admission of Microsoft that they will be the ONLY hardware supplier of Win8 tablets, because basically everyone else can't compete.

On a personal note, I hope they come out with a 7" RT version with pen and ink so I can use OneNote. That is one of the best bits of bytes Microsoft have ever done, and the idea of being connected to all my notebooks on a SFF device for less than £150 seems like a godsend. Well, meatheadsend, we're still talking about Ballmer of course (at least for another year; if 8 flops he'll finally get pushed out)

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

"..makes a lot of sense to target that number."

Especially as a rumour, that turns out to be wrong. That will make a few people wait, rather than going with a Nexus or iPad now.

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

I doubt anyone will wait based on this rumour, because no-one with any sense will believe it. This price? Not a chance. Maaaayyybeeeee as part of a package - get it for this price when you buy Visual Studio Premium or something. But on its own, this price? No.

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

As I've mentioned elsewhere, the possible original price for Surface was probably higher but the Nexus 7 could well have made them knock it lower, much lower.

The Nexus has been a very large brick thrown in the pond.

It has to sell for a good margin below the iPad or...you'd just buy an iPad (well I wouldn't but Joe User would).

If they sell at $199 then it will sell like crazy and create a viable ecosystem that will garner them revenue from apps sales. This OS isn't a one shot deal for MS, there is revenue from the life of the device this time.

Personally I would think $299 is a more realistic price. If it's $400+ then it's dead in the water and guaranteed a place in every "Failed Tech" article for years to come.

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

"Personally I would think $299 is a more realistic price. If it's $400+ then it's dead in the water and guaranteed a place in every "Failed Tech" article for years to come."

It's more feature capable than an iPad and they sell for that amount of money, so I'm expecting it to come out for around that. I find it hard to believe that anyone here is taking this rumour seriously. If there's anything to it at all, then the price is as part of some package deal of some sort. More likely, this is either just random rumour that has spread amongst the gullible or a malicious marketing trick by an MS rival trying to raise expectations so they can be brought down.

Seriously, there is no way at all that something feature comparable with the iPad is being sold for $199. At all.

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

Arthur 1 said: "What's not to like about how it turned out?"

How about... everything? By lowballing the Xbox(es), Microsoft dragged down the entire market, while never making it into the black themselves. What's more, by shifting its emphasis from Windows games, Microsoft validated closed, proprietary, under-powered junkheap consoles, and led to a 'lost decade' or two as far as the evolution of gaming. Lose, Lose, Lose. For everyone.

There's a reason for anti-trust laws, and this is it. Allowing Microsoft to take its ill-gotten billions from Windows and Office and squander them in order to dominate a market it doesn't understand.

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Facepalm

Re: Original XBox Anyone?

The trouble is even though it may be more feature packed, you sit a Surface Tablet Next to a iPad3 in John Lewis and they are more or less the same price...

...which one will Joe Public most likely buy?

I doubt it will be the MS one. Chances are nine times out of ten they will walk away with the iPad. And at this point in time, rightly so really.

Now you price it say £100+ less than the iPad and you might get a few more sales.

If it doesn't shift units you may as well not bother. The only thing that dents the iPads hold is when an item goes for considerably less but with similar quality.

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

"It has to sell for a good margin below the iPad or...you'd just buy an iPad (well I wouldn't but Joe User would)."

Apple has only benefit from vast amounts of media hype (free advertising) and support in the shops, which Android gets little of. Since MS can get hype and shop support too, there's no reason why it has to be a lower price.

I might as well say Apple need to price below MS, otherwise most people will just buy MS - after all, that's what happens on the desktop.

Also remember that the Surface is just one Windows 8 device. It doesn't matter if it's more expensive, sells less, or whatever, as long as Windows 8 as a whole sells well. Indeed, the Surface may well be a premium device, intended to be a high end that sets a standard, leaving other PC manufacturers to sell cheaper Ipad-like products that, like the Ipad, aren't as good, but might sell more due to the cost.

"If it's $400+ then it's dead in the water and guaranteed a place in every "Failed Tech" article for years to come."

The problem is that "Failed Tech" media articles often have little to do with actual success. The media will declare it a flop based on what they want, not on what actually happens When Apple get 5% in a market, it's an amazing success (e.g, the Iphone), when MS get 10%, it's a flop (e.g., the Zune). Or for Apple, the media just invent a new market category to say Apple are number one (e.g., tablets but not including smartphones - which are tablets by any reasonable definition; or indeed "smartphone", which is defined to compare all of Apple's sales to only a fraction of Samsung's and Nokia's, even though the original Iphone wasn't even a feature phone, since it couldn't run apps).

$600 is £400, in line with other high end IOS and Android 10" tablets. So that price is fine, albeit nothing special. $400 would be a success - that's under £300. At $300 - well if it's not a hit at that price, it'll be due to other problems (e.g., media bias, or lack of support in the shops, or unfair bias in software support, as happens for Symbian and Android for phones, since so many companies only support the less popular Iphone).

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Re: Original XBox Anyone?

The only reason the Ipad sells is because right now if you go into John Lewis, you see an Ipad *alongside nothing else*. Same with every other shop which has Ipads on for sale, but it's hard to see an Android tablet in the flesh - mostly just cheap crap ones from unknown brands in Maplin (who are still up Apple's arse with their only offering an "Iphone" app for their website - sorry, like most people, I don't have an Iphone).

Time and time again, Apple lose when they compete on the same level. Mac OS versus Windows; Iphone versus Symbian and now Android. Take away the unfair shop advantage (and maybe some of the media bias), and let's see how well they do on Ipads then.

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Pint

Re: ..makes a lot of sense to target that number.

"Especially as a rumour, that turns out to be wrong. That will make a few people wait, rather than going with a Nexus or iPad now."

I'm already not buying a Nexus, even though I wanted to. But Google chose to save $0.89 omitting a micro SD card slot, so its useless to me.

And if Google's Nexus had the SD card slot, I would not wait for M$ tablet, no matter the $199 price, cause of apps.

Some people here misconstrue that the total number of apps in an app store doesn't matter, cause most of it is junk. This may be true, but doesn't actually support the point they're usually trying to make with that, because the ratio of the total number of apps available and those specifically useful to you is pretty much constant.

So if there's 100.000 apps total and you're happy with the 50 you downloaded out of that, and those 50 apps do everything you want, thats no reason to assume that you'd find those 50 in a market featuring only 1.000 apps.

Even with a 10x improvement of the useful-to-your-needs ratio, you'd still only have 5 apps that do precisely what you need. For the other 45, you'd have to bring your laptop ...err Ultrabook :P

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FAIL

Shame it can't run windows programes.

Nor does it have many apps for it, Windows RT could be a spectacular failure at this rate, its going to be fun to watch no mater what.

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Anonymous Coward

Anything that isn't using x86 assembler can be ported across by recompiling. The same will largely be true of Windows Phone 8. All three versions of the OS will be running the same kernel.

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Anonymous Coward

.....and you can on the other devices? It won't run Xbox games either!

Windows RT is a consumer device. Targeted to compete with the other players in that field. Oh and it'll have a version of office. Unlike the others. An iPad doesn't have the power or functionality of a macbook does it?

The x86 version will allow "windows programs" to run. Two different target demographics.

Th battle will be interesting none the less

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Wrong. Anything using "the UI/API formerly known as Metro" should just run. Anything using the Windows API won't. Except heavyweight desktop class apps will likely struggle on rt class hardware and you'll end up only using lightweight versions!

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Re: Anything that isn't using x86 assembler can be ported across by recompiling

I guess that means the following:

The BAD:

If its one of my windows programs, I get to pay for it again to run it on RT.

(if they decide its worth bothering to do so)

The (possibly) GOOD:

If its a Foss program with open source, I can recompile it myself an run it.

(provided M$ doesn't do something stinky to foil side-loading of software)

Still too much of a gamble to pay any more than $199...

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Re: Anything that isn't using x86 assembler can be ported across by recompiling

> If its one of my windows programs, I get to pay for it again to run it on RT.

I think that you are entirely too optimistic. Your 'windows programs' will be using the Win32 API. This is not available in Windows RT (except to MS Office apparently) so it not 'just a recompile' it is a rewrite.

> If its a Foss program with open source, I can recompile it myself an run it.

Where will you get the compiler ?

> (provided M$ doesn't do something stinky to foil side-loading of software)

They have already said that software must go through the appstore, which requires that it be approved. There was some indication that corporate licences may allow sideloading but no details.

> Still too much of a gamble to pay any more than $199...

The latest is that the $199 price is for a 2 year contract with a monthly charge. ie similar to a phone contract.

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Go

No fan of Windows 8 etc. but...

A loss leader might be the only way to get a foothold in the market. Look at the Xbox 360, a grossly unreliable poorly made console rushed out to get a lead on the Sony PS3, they then spent billions fixing those that died (own experience, over 5 years still on first PS3, Xbox 360 is number 5 (6?)).

But it worked, you can get away with selling an unreliable consumer product, if you time and price it right, etc. Xbox live provides a steady income, that Sony have failed to match, though being first on the block is not necessarily the reason for why Sony's PSN doesn't make it as much (if any) money as Xbox live does.

If the hardware is reliable, I doubt one could mess up designing a tablet (hostility to Windows 8 UI not withstanding) in this day and age, then why not make a loss on the first iteration, and then price the second revision to make money, having got a foot (toe?) hold in the market?

Besides M$ have a huge amount of money to burn, selling these at a loss might still be cheaper than what they overpaid for Skype, and make more economic sense for example.

PC manufacturers, they won't be happy, and will be thoroughly shafted in the process, not sure that will help M$ in the long term.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No fan of Windows 8 etc. but...

Still have the 360 I bought on launch day, going strong with no failures.

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