Microsoft said on Tuesday its new Surface tablet computer — designed to challenge Apple’s iPad — will be sold at roughly the same price as the market leader.
Microsoft began taking pre-orders for the Surface, which will start at US$499 for US customers for a tablet with 32 gigabytes of memory. A 64GB version bundled with a black touch cover is priced at US$699.
The prices are in line with the iPad, which begins at US$499, but with less memory. Apple is expected to unveil a low-priced “iPad Mini” next week.
Surface will be available on Oct. 26 at Microsoft Store locations in the US and Canada and will be sold online in eight markets: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Britain and the US.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has described the iPad challenger — complete with a built-in stand and ultra thin covers which double as keyboards in a range of colors — as a tablet that “works and plays.”
The tablet will run on the Windows 8 operating system, which is also being released on Oct. 26.
Analysts said Microsoft was walking a fine line in not pricing the Surface too low, which could upset its partners, or too high, to discourage buyers.
At that price level, Citi analyst Walter Pritchard said, “we are not sure there is sufficient motivation to lure consumers away from the iPad.”
“We believe by pricing Surface in line with iPad, Microsoft may be indicating that it feels good about the product and that the addition of Office more than justifies the price parity,” the analyst added.
Morgan Stanley’s Adam Holt called Surface “a compelling value” because it includes the Office software suite, which includes the widely used word-processor Word, which may be key for business users.
As Microsoft announced prices of its tablet, Apple sent out invitations on Tuesday for an event in exactly one week’s time where the company is widely expected to unveil a new “iPad Mini,” a smaller version of its market-leading tablet computer.
“We’ve got a little more to show you,” said the invitations for Tuesday’s event in San Jose, California.
Some blogs that closely monitor Apple say the new tablet could be priced from US$249 to US$399, which could pressure rivals such as the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Various reports have cited the specifications of the new tablet and some pictures have also leaked.
The new tablet is also expected to have a screen of 7.85 inches, compared with 9.7 inches for the current iPad.