Microsoft announces Surface pricing

October 17, 2012 // 11:45 a.m.

Tags: #android #arm #ios #ipad #microsoft-surface #surface #tablet #touch-cover #type-cover #windows-8 #windows-rt

Microsoft has announced UK pricing for its first Surface device, the Windows RT-based ARM-powered entry-level model: £399.

At first glance, and taking into account the 10.6in display and capacious 32GB storage capacity, that seems like a pretty reasonable launch price. Sadly, Microsoft is trying to pull a fast one on consumers: while its launch announcements were full of talk of the clever Touch Cover - which combines a screen-protecting cover with a physical keyboard - that won't be included in the package.

Instead, buyers of the near-enough £400 tablet are being asked to spend £99 on the Touch Cover, which uses a pressure-sensitive membrane keyboard much like Sir Clive Sinclair chose for his £99 ZX80 and £79 ZX81 microcomputers at the start of the 80s. For those who can't imagine typing on a surface which fails to offer any kind of feedback - presumably people who haven't used a tablet's on-screen keyboard - there's also the Type Cover, a thicker unit which provides a small amount of movement to the keys, for £109.

So, assuming that you want the full Surface experience, you're looking at a minimum of £498 - a price which puts it above the cost of the £479 32GB iPad. While it's true that the iPad doesn't include a keyboard - meaning the Surface wins out - a keyboard case for the iPad can be had for under £12, bringing the comparative total to £491 for the iPad and £498 for the Surface.

With Apple easily leading the high-end tablet market, and Google's Android mopping up those on a tighter budget or looking for a more esoteric design, Microsoft's Surface is likely to struggle at launch. The inclusion of a cut-down version of Microsoft Office could help drive sales of the device in the enterprise, but with rumours spreading that an iOS version of Office is in the works that may not last long.

For others, Surface could be a hard sell. With Windows RT running on an ARM processor, the system isn't compatible with existing Windows applications and will have to work hard to build up the same kind of wide-ranging ecosystem of third-party developers as Android or iOS. Worse still, the Surface Pro tablets are due early next year and will bring a full-fat version of Windows 8 and backwards compatibility with existing x86 applications in a move which, depending on price, may kill off the ARM-based Surface models before they even have a chance to get started.

UK orders for the Surface with Windows RT are due to open on the 26th of October, alongside the launch of Windows 8.

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