Should this rumor be true, it could end in a big world of hurt for PC makers. Even Acer, which actually manufactures the Surface tablets for Microsoft, trembles at the thought of a $199 price tag for the Windows RT Surface that is slated for release on October 26th — simultaneous with the launch of Windows 8.
“Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC,” Steven Sinofsky, head of Windows, stated at the presentation back in June. The most pertinent question on everybody’s mind is: What does “comparable ARM tablet” mean these days? $399? $299? Or even $199, following the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7.
When Microsoft unveiled its first foray into the tablet market, the accompanying video ad showed a completely new side of the Redmond giant. It’s a flashy video with sleek images of the Surface, raw materials, paired with a dubsteb soundtrack. Is this the new, “cool” face of Microsoft? Windows 8, Windows RT, Office 2013, Xbox, Windows Phone, and Surface all use the new Modern UI (formerly Metro), to convey a new push into a unified future. It’s a complete turnaround for Microsoft — one which (I believe) will likely pay off.
Coincidentally, tomorrow is the MSDN release for Windows 8. LockerGnome will publish a detailed review of the RTM version. Yet the general public has yet to find out just how deep the change runs. It’s not simply a cosmetic overhaul, but a fundamental change of philosophy over at Microsoft.
It has been argued that Windows 8 has largely been conceived as a tablet OS, something I personally disagree with. However, it seems now more and more that the Surface tablets will play a pivotal role in the success of this new rising ecosystem. Preloaded with a version of Office 2013, and presumably an RT version of Skype, it could very well become a successful product — simply because of the fact that people like to use familiar software. Windows, as a brand, is analogous with computing around the world.
An aggressive pricing model might cause two results: one bad, and one good. A $199 price tag would instantly make it a success on the market, but also make it hard for other PC makers to compete and match this extremely low price. On the other hand, it might also be in incentive for developers to start supporting the new Windows RT platform. Both would be beneficial to Microsoft, not necessarily to its partner hardware manufacturers.
However, all this is just speculation. As much as it sounds like a dream price, Microsoft will most likely not price the Surface below $399. Yet, if it actually prices it lower, then the Surface could take a big portion of the tablet market now dominated by the iPad. Windows RT depends largely on how well-received these new Windows-based tablet devices are received. If they fail to make a dent on the market, then Windows 8 will have a hard time justifying its profound changes.
This is a busy year for Microsoft. It remains to be seen if this new way of doing things in Redmond will ensure an even more prosperous future.
Photo via Microsoft