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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  • guidryp - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    $500 Android tablets have 1920x1200 screens and the iPad has 2048x1536 screen.

    The Surface screen is 1366 x 768.

    iPad has several hundred thousand applications, surface has almost none.

    The only selling point for Surface is that you can run Office on a netbook type 1366x768 screen. Something that will largely be a PITA.

    So this does seem like a pricing fail.
  • chizow - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    "iPad has several hundred thousand applications, surface has almost none."

    Unless I'm missing something....anything that runs on Windows 8/RT should be able to run on Surface provided there aren't specific hardware requirements (RAM, discrete GPU, DX requirements etc).

    Isn't that the whole point of a Windows-branded tablet?
  • guidryp - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    This doesn't run x86 Windows software. Zero percent of the Million Windows applications you can by today. ZERO.

    It only runs new Metro style apps, of which there is a negligible amount.
  • N4g4rok - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    As of late September, they were pushing 4000 apps with limited development availability.

    4000 != 0

    Yes, it's a small number, but the growth rate has been good enough to warrant optimism. Not only that, but notable windows application developers have already given their word for pushing out ARM compatible applications for this platform.
  • guidryp - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I said negligible amount of Metro apps.

    4000 is negligible next hundreds of thousands.

    Heck 4000 is less than RIM has for the Playbook.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    100 excellent apps would trump 10 billion lousy apps. Of the gigantic app ecosystem on iOS, many of them are complete garbage and not worth even a first look, let alone paying for them. There are of course quality apps on iOS, and there are many more of them right now than on Windows RT, but 4000 is a lot of applications and if that 4000 doesn't include the garbage we see in Android and iOS (basically, 95% of free apps), that's actually a healthy starting point.

    The problem is, good hardware drives hardware sales which brings the developers which brings the apps. The apps then drive more sales and you get a nice cycle going. iOS and Android have accomplished this. Windows RT has some existing apps, but there aren't any users right now so that's what they need. Still, MS + Intel + others are pushing the hardware, so in a year I think we might see a 3-way battle in the tablet space.
  • chizow - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    That may be true for RT, which I'm sure will change as they get ported over, but the x86 Win8 Pro will definitely be able to run all Windows apps that don't require specific hardware.

    Taken directly from the Windows Surface site:

    "Runs current Windows 7 desktop applications and integrates with your existing enterprise management infrastructure. Use the programs and the apps available in the Windows Store. "

    Makes sense, its an x86 CPU running Windows 8 Pro, there should be no reason for it not to run all compatible Windows apps.
  • guidryp - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Yes which is why buying a Window RT device like Surface doesn't make much sense. If you want Windows get the real thing.

    You can buy an ACER W510 with Full windows 8 for the same price as Surface RT.
  • chizow - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Surface is coming in an x86 flavor too though, so Surface will be the "real thing" you keep advocating.

    RT adoption may be too early but I fully expect Windows RT to be the catalyst for widespread crossover from x86 to ARM with the vast majority of Windows apps ported over in the next few years.

    In 10 years, we might look back and see WinRT+Surface as the key development in breaking the WIntel monopoly of the last 30 years.
  • guidryp - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Judging by pricing here, Surface Pro will likely be $1000, and still not here till 2013.

    Acer is $500 for x86.

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