Microsoft risks alienating everyday consumers by pricing its self-branded tablets at a premium, analysts say.
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Microsoft plans to introduce its Surface tablets later this year at prices starting at about $600 for the entry-level version, according to a published report. If accurate, the Surface line could have a tough time competing against the iPad and Android tablets, according to some analysts.
Surface for Windows RT, which uses mobile chips designed by ARM Holdings and runs Windows 8 RT, will be priced at a minimum of $599, according to DigiTimes, a Taiwan-based publication that closely tracks the nation's PC components industry. Surface for Windows 8, which runs a full-blown version of the Windows 8 operating system and is powered by Intel's Ivy Bridge architecture, will start at about $799.
Microsoft has tapped Taipei-based Pegatron to build the devices, DigiTimes reported, citing unnamed sources.
If the report is correct, Microsoft could have difficulty convincing consumers to choose its untried platform over established devices like Apple's iPad. "Their high prices are expected to become the biggest obstacle in the market," DigiTimes said.
Indeed, the iPad carries an entry-level price of just $499. Amazon's Kindle Fire, which runs a customized version of Google's Android OS, sells for just $199.
Earlier this week, NPD DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim said Surface tablets may not be for everyday consumers. "It is likely that Microsoft's ARM-based tablet will be targeted for the high-end of the market," said Shim, in a blog post.
Microsoft may have little choice but to price its first tablets at a premium. If it's too aggressive on pricing, it could undercut Windows 8 tablets from hardware makers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo, on whom it still depends to produce mass-market and enterprise Windows PCs and laptops.
Adding to the inherent cost of Windows RT tablets is that they will all come with a touch-optimized version of Office 15 preinstalled. While that may appeal to power users, it likely won't be much of an incentive for everyday consumers, who use tablets mostly for Web surfing and social networking, to shell out for a premium product.
For its part, Microsoft has not yet revealed its pricing plans or a ship date for Surface. Most observers, however, expect the tablets to debut sometime in the fall. The company has all but finished work on the Windows 8 operating system, so now it's just a matter of pairing it with hardware and finalizing a distribution plan.
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