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At $899, Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet is DOA

30 Nov

In a blog post on Thursday, Microsoft’s Surface general manager Panos Panay announced the long-awaited (by some) pricing and availability of the Surface Pro, the beefed-up version of the RT tablet launched last month. The Pro, which has better guts and runs a full version of the new Windows 8, will start at $899 with 64 gigabytes of storage, up to $999 for 128GB, with both becoming available in January.

At prices like that, it’s not a stretch to say that the Pro will be dead on arrival. At the very least, it’ll need a big price cut in short order to avoid flopping completely.

For one thing, Microsoft is pitching the device as a laptop replacement, or something that can replace the need to carry both a tablet and laptop. With full Windows on it, the Pro can do everything a laptop can do, but it’s also smaller and lighter. It can also double as a tablet, doing all the things such devices do.

One problem with the idea is that the Surface also needs the attachable Touch or Type cover for proper text input, which runs an additional $120 or $130. Suddenly, the base model costs more than $1,000, which is what a MacBook Air goes for. It’s also more expensive than many Windows-running Ultrabooks.

The thing is, we know Airs and Ultrabooks are useful and worth their cost. Do we know that about the Pro? It’s a weird hybrid device that costs more than any tablet, but doesn’t necessarily do anything better than a laptop. Indeed, if the RT is any indication, its Touch cover will be less comfortable or convenient to type on than on a regular laptop keyboard. Why should we get rid of our laptops, again?

In both cases, prices on laptops and tablets are trending downward. Regular laptops can be had for a couple hundred bucks, a direction that Ultrabooks are already heading (Acer has models for $600). As for tablets, the sweet spot seems to be settling between $200 and $300. Once Apple releases an iPad Mini with Retina display, likely next year, the price ceiling on such devices will likely firm up at around $300. The Surface is therefore too expensive in both categories, and in tablets it’s by several orders of magnitude.

The only logic to the pricing decision seems to be Microsoft’s belief that companies will be willing to pay more to furnish their employees with them, which could be considered exploitative in the same way that smartphone makers overprice their products to the wireless carriers they sell to.

With Windows 8 not selling well, despite the company’s claims to the contrary, and consumers unlikely to go anywhere near the overpriced Pro, it may not be a smart move to turn businesses off with high prices. They may be the only friends Microsoft has left.

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8 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2012 in apple, microsoft

 

8 responses to “At $899, Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet is DOA

  1. Marc Venot

    November 30, 2012 at 12:11 am

    Maybe there are at least two reasons:
    – the quality of the software provided (Office)
    – give margin to the challengers on the platform.

     
  2. Alex Davies (@alexbdavies)

    November 30, 2012 at 12:57 am

    I can’t believe the amount of FUD that has been spread about the Surface Pro today. Why is no one doing an apples to apples comparison of what was announced by Microsoft today?

    The Pro is actually amazingly priced for what it is. Please stop comparing it to consumer-grade mobile OS tablets. It is NOT designed for that market. It is a professional grade (hence the name Pro…) tablet for artists, graphic designers and business professionals. It is not a content consumption device like the iPad or Surface RT.

    Let’s look closely at the specs of the Surface Pro, and then compare them to other tablets AND Ultrabooks with the same or similar specs:

    TABLETS:

    • The entry level Surface Pro runs Windows 8 PRO (the business version) has a ‘next-gen’ (will it be the 4th gen version of the i5) Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, A 1080p (!) screen with a Wacom digitizer and stylus, and a 64GB SSD. It is also made from premium materials, no plastic here. It runs for $900 USD.

    • The closest equivalent tablet, that is a tablet with a notebook class processor and full operating system, is the new Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro. It too has 3rd gen i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 1080p screen, Wacom digitizer, but has a bigger 128GB SSD. However, it only comes with Windows 8 Home edition. It costs $1149. That’s $150 MORE than the Surface Pro with the 128GB SSD. Oh, and it is all made from plastic.

    • If you add the optional keyboard dock to the Samsung it comes up to $1300. Add the Surface Type-Cover (the hard ‘proper’ keyboard cover which is $130) the Surface Pro with a keyboard and a 128GB SSD is $1130. Still cheaper than its direct competitor in the market.

    • There are also a number of enterprise grade tablets coming out from Dell, Lenovo and HP that would be considered direct competitors to the Surface Pro, since they runs Windows 8 Pro, have styli etc, but since none of them are out I won’t include them. Suffice to say the Surface Pro is very competitive with them price and spec wise.

    ULTRABOOKS:

    To start with, on the link to Future Shop that you posted all the lower priced Ultrabooks listed are less powerful, less portable (as in bigger screens, heavier), run Windows 8 home, have lower resolution screens, and are made from cheaper materials. Also the Surface Pro is a convertible. It can act as a notebook with the keyboard add-on (again with the ‘proper’ one, the type-cover), and is still also a tablet.

    • A close Ultrabook equivalent in specs I can find on that Future Shop link is the Samsung Series 9 13.3” (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/samsung-samsung-series-9-13-3-3rd-gen-intel-core-i5-3317u-windows-8-ultrabook-np900x3c-a02ca-black-np900x3c-a02ca/10224945.aspx?path=12166ef7639e3df3c2f18bcc057e447fen02) It too is made from premium materials, has a 3rd gen i5 CPU and 4GB of RAM. While it does have a bigger SSD (256GB), it only has a 1600×900 non-touch screen, and it runs the home version of Windows 8. It costs $1450. Quite a bit more than the Surface Pro with the Type-cover keyboard.

    • Something else a little lower priced would be the Asus 13” Zenbook Ultrabook (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/asus-asus-13-3-3rd-gen-intel-core-i5-3317u-windows-8-ultrabook-ux31a-dh51-cb-silver-ux31a-dh51-cb/10227296.aspx?
    path=4653ba871550788e713ecc0664159274en02) It DOES have a 1080p screen, a 3rd gen Core i5 CPU, 128GB SSD, but its build quality is a little less premium, it doesn’t have the touch-screen or Wacom stylus, and again it only has Windows 8 home. It is however only $1100, so a little cheaper, but not by much.

    • If you look at an equivalent Mac, the 11.6” model comparable to the Surface, this one is close (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/apple-apple-macbook-air-11-6-intel-core-i5-1-7ghz-128-gb-laptop-english-md224ll-a/10178807.aspx?path=6d44d842d7e6bb4b563542ea874475fben02). It has a 3rd Gen i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD like the Surface Pro. It also has a lower resolution 1366×768 screen and no Wacom digitizer. There is no point comparing OS’s. It costs $1100. Comparably priced to the Surface Pro with the keyboard, but is just a notebook, not a convertible product.

    So looking at the above I think if you do a REAL comparison of the Surface Pro to other ‘Pro’ level tablets, and Ultrabooks of an equivalent size, I don’t know how you can say it cost $900 and up and call it a DOA product.

    “consumers unlikely to go anywhere near the overpriced Pro, it may not be a smart move to turn businesses off with high prices” – again it is NOT a consumer product, and it is NOT overpriced for business.

    “The only logic to the pricing decision seems to be Microsoft’s belief that companies will be willing to pay more to furnish their employees with them, which could be considered exploitative in the same way that smartphone makers overprice their products to the wireless carriers they sell to.” – Please find me an equivalent business class tablet with a full business version OS, with the same or similar specs, for a better price.

     
    • petenowak2000

      November 30, 2012 at 1:45 am

      Sounds like you’ll be one of the dozens lining up to buy one? ; )

       
      • Alex Davies (@alexbdavies)

        November 30, 2012 at 2:04 am

        Sorry for the length, It’s just frustrating to see all the knee-jerk reactions today of tablet, $900 = won’t sell, without anyone doing any research on the Surface Pro into why it’s priced like it is, and why it is actually a really good deal.

         
  3. Nick S (@NBomb)

    November 30, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Too early for me to reply coherently – using point form:

    -‘next gen’ i5 cpu? Haswell has barely been announced yet, you’re saying that the Surface Pro will be out in the late spring/early summer instead of next month?

    -4GB of RAM is basically a minimum these days for a PC. In terms of tablets, it would be kind of overkill, at the moment.

    -The touch screen is a must for a tablet, not necessarily for a laptop. The jury is still out on if the pen is useful at all. (s-pen, palm, etc)

    -I’d argue it’s still more of a consumption device, unless you count office tasks as ‘creation’ (rather than bleeding your life away slowly! 😉 – anyone doing ‘real’ content creation is likely going to need a lot more power and a different control interface than this offers. You’re not going to be editing 4k video on it, for example.

    That’s all I got right now. Not agreeing that it’s DOA, but not agreeing with some of these comments, either.

     
  4. craigbamford

    December 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    So, wait…the only reason why the Surface Pro is “DOA” is because you aren’t convinced the Pro will be useful? And the only reason you doubt it’s usefulness compared to, say, the Air is because it’s “a weird hybrid device?”

    Sorry, Peter, but this sounds like a decision you made before the price was even announced.

     
    • craigbamford

      December 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      (And, in fact, it raises the question of whether there was anything that MS could have done at all to win favor, beyond just rolling over and showing Apple its underbelly.)

       
 
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