Microsoft Surface is competing with laptops, not iPads
Microsoft revealed the pricing for the Surface RT yesterday, starting at $499 for a 32 Gigabyte model without keyboard up to $699 for the 64 Gigabyte flagship model with keyboard included. The majority of journalists compared the pricing to Apple's iPad, heck, I did that too, and I think it is a valid thing to do. Comparison-wise, the Surface RT is cheaper than Apple's new iPad. You either get more storage or the same storage and a keyboard for the price of the iPad.
The Surface in addition ships with an extra microSDXC slot for additional storage and an USB port (RT only USB 2.0, Pro with USB 3.0) among other things. Not everything has been in favor of the Surface though, the lower screen resolution for instance needs to be mentioned in this regard.
But is it Microsoft's intention to compete with Apple's iPad and to a lesser degree Android 10" tablets, or is there more to the story than meets the eye right now? Sure, it is a nice side effect if the Surface RT manages to snag away market share from Apple in the existing tablet market, but why would tablet owners purchase a new tablet? The tablet ecosystems are closed, and if you have installed apps and games, and maybe even made a few purchases, it is not a light decision to switch to another ecosystem as you are losing all of what you have worked with, purchased, or installed before. Some tablet users that want to upgrade to a more powerful tablet may pick the Surface, but I can't really see many do that.
That leaves people without a tablet PC as the primary market for Microsoft. Those have options to purchase a laptop running Windows, a Macbook, or a tablet PC. And this is where it gets interesting. Instead of buying an expensive Macbook or a Windows laptop that is either cheap but not that powerful or expensive and powerful, and always quite heavy, people could decide to purchase a Surface instead.
The Surface's pricing when compared to traditional laptops running Windows is attractive. It not only makes available a touch screen that Windows 8 is optimized for, but is also optimized for mobile work. You can say the same for some laptops, but those usually weigh more unless you decide to get an expensive ultrabook.
While the Surface RT won't support legacy Windows programs, it does ship with Office, and providing that the version supports the majority of features of the desktop Office versions, it is added value that non-Windows 8 tablets do not offer. You also get a full Internet browser and can take advantage of services and apps available on the web.
Combine that with the keyboard, and you got a device at hand that many can use for work and leisure. Would you rather carry a 680g Surface around with you or a traditional laptop weighting in the kg range?
I'm not saying the Surface RT can replace a laptop for all users, it can't, but it can for some. If you have the requirement to run legacy software, you can purchase the Surface Pro instead which is a bit on the heavier side but ships with more storage, Windows 8 Pro to run both legacy software and Windows Store apps, a resolution of 1920x1080, USB 3.0, and is still below the 1kg mark weight-wise (I need to mention that this is without the keyboard which weights 200g).
What may be holding the Surface back though is missing cellular support which some business users may need for work. While it is possible to buy extra hardware and plug it into the USB port to add that, it means having to carry around with you another piece of equipment.
In closing, I believe that it is not Microsoft's intention to compete with Apple's iPad for existing tablet users.Advertisement