Earlier this summer Microsoft did the somewhat unexpected and announced first party Windows RT and Windows 8 tablet hardware under the Surface brand. Microsoft wanted to have flagship devices that could embody what Windows RT and Windows 8 were about, and rather than work with a single OEM to deliver that Microsoft took matters into its own hands. Surface for Windows RT is a 10.6-inch NVIDIA Tegra 3 based tablet, while the 10.6-inch Surface for Windows 8 Pro will feature an Intel Ivy Bridge processor. Surface RT is launching alongside Windows 8 on October 26, while Surface Pro will follow approximately three months later.

Other than an intense focus on build quality, one of the stand out features of the Surface tablets is the first party covers that integrate very thin keyboards/trackpads. The end result is something that promises to have all of the elegance of Apple’s Smart Covers with the functionality of ASUS’ Transformer dock. The touch cover is only 3.2mm thick and features a pressure sensitive keyboard, while the 5.5mm type cover features a traditional, shallow depth keyboard. Microsoft’s goal with both of these covers is to bring productivity to its Surface tablets.

All of these details thus far were announced at Microsoft’s special event in June. What’s new today are pricing and availability details. Surface RT will be available starting at $499 for the 32GB model (integrated eMMC) preloaded with Office 2013 Home & Student Edition preview. For another $100 you can get a special Surface RT bundle that includes a black Touch Cover. Colored touch covers are available separately for $119 (black, white, cyan, magenta and red). The Type Cover is available separately, in black only, for $129. Both types of covers are powered by the Surface unit itself.

For $699 Microsoft is offering a 64GB Surface RT with a bundled black Touch Cover. There is no 64GB SKU without a Touch Cover. All Surface RT tablets come preloaded with Office 2013 Home & Student Edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The Office 2013 preload is of the current preview build of the software with a free upgrade to final software when it’s available.

The Surface RT tablet bundles will only be available for sale through Microsoft.com and Microsoft Stores. Other online e-tailers and brick and mortar retailers will not be carrying Surface. Although Microsoft’s reasoning behind the decision to sell direct only isn’t public, it likely has to do with cutting out retailer margins from the final device price. There’s also the benefit of controlling the buying experience. Apple has done this for years with its products, so it’s no surprise to see Microsoft doing the same. Going forward we may see even more PC OEMs opt for the online or Microsoft store only policy for sales unless traditional retailers adjust their demands for margins.

Surface RT tablets will be available on October 26th, with preorders starting today at surface.com at 9AM Pacific. Surface will be available in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, the UK, China and Hong Kong.

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  • Bubbacub - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    price is stupidly high.

    the market for $500 non x86 non apple tablets is pretty small

    minimal useful apps other than office that presumably won't be that useful without the touch cover keyboard which is another $100.

    if the whole thing with the keyboard cover was ~$400 i think it could gain some traction.

    i wonder if the high price is to not upset their partners (e.g. HP, Acer etc)

    if this was an x86 device then the pricing would be ok

  • N4g4rok - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Pricing seems reasonable considering what the device is capable of over the ipad. And don't forget, devs will jump on this at the opportunity to have a tablet that fits into their exiting ecosystem.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    If they want to drive market adoption, the price is stupidly high. Windows 8's chances of success just got a lot worse.

    Seriously, for $200 more (at most) you can get a ThinkPad Tablet 2--with a keyboard--that can run any x86 app. And that machine isn't exactly screamingly fast with it's Atom processor; they're all overpriced for what you get.
  • N4g4rok - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Perhaps the surface pro will be $150 - $200 more.

    The success of Surface won't be called within the first few weeks of it's release. It has a real chance, even at a slightly higher price than competitors. We'll have to wait and see.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I don't know - I think the first few weeks will go a long way for deciding the success of these products. This reminds me a bit of the Zune - I was hoping to have a lower priced alternative to the iPod. I was disappointed to see them matching Apple prices, and my response was to just buy an iPod (which still works great after 7 years). These tablets need to start selling well from the beginning. The original iPad took a while to get going in sales, but it was a new market. That isn't the case now.
  • ricardodawkins - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    You can get an Acer Iconia with the same features set as the 499USD Surface but with an ATOM x86 CPU.

    But Surface success or not is not related to Windows 8 success.
  • fteoath64 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    "Pricing seems reasonable considering what the device is capable of over the ipad.".

    How so ?. There are Office document readers on iPad. The only slight advantage is Office version where creation/modification of content is possible on RT. Not that people would want to do that often. Mostly reading from the tablet and short email responses.
    Pricing is a killer here. It is $200 too expensive and users will do the comparison and stay away from Surface RT. A grand fail, just see the number of order estimates by month end.

    Remember, Oct 23 with iPad Mini is going to decimate this product launch!.
  • This Guy - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    The iPad has better graphics, a far better screen and a very healthy ecosystem. The Surface has a better case, a cool cover and the internals of the $250 Nexus 7.

    I have a hotmail account so I get office home and student for free in any web browser.

    The kind of people who would be happy with Windows RT are the same kind of people who would be happy with any tablet. Sell if for $300, win the tablet war and make a ton of profit. Or sell it for $600, stall a bit and cover your R&D.
  • halo37253 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Yet you forget that the iPad runs a old and outdated OS called iOS. iOS is nothing more then a ugly wall of apps with nothing going for it. I have yet to a decent web browser on iOS that can stand up to the web browsers on Android or even windows 8 which to me has the best web browser options of them all. 90% of the time people spend on tablets are while using the web browser so having something that can't play half the youtube videos or forced into viewing mobile versions of sites sucks pretty hard. Also games on ipads arnt vary good so all that GPU power does nothing, Come back when steam games are on the ipad and we'll talk. iPad is old news now and until the ipad get a improved OS its nothing more then a large ipod touch.

    Windows RT is for the future and people who get them now have to understand that. The X86 side will be the one that will help the RT side grow. In a years time windows RT will be booming with apps. Would be nice to see a Atom surface though, Atom in its current state is already faster then ARM. Needing two ARM cores to match a single atom core is not cool from a performance standpoint, but then again ARM cores use lot less power.
  • tipoo - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Seems reasonable to me. Any similar Android tablet is up around there anyways, and the big appeal to a lot of people will be USB and Office support.

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