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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  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Resolution isn't everything. If it was, there wouldn't be a market for high-end panel designs, since you can just use a much cheaper design with the same number of pixels. You should read the Anandtech "Inside Surface RT" article.

    I'm still thinking that it should have been around $400. But it is a really premium tablet. If you want a cheaper design with cheaper components everywhere but the CPU, I'm sure there will be alternatives.
  • halo37253 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    1366 x 768 is perfectly fine for that screen size. The gain from going to a higher DPI isnt all that high. For the normal user more screen resolution will do nothing as all they really do is scale your interface to the same size anyway. While it would be nice to have a higher rez screen I find little point to have one on a ARM based system where the graphic power is pretty weak compared to modern desktops and laptops. Sure the iPad has many apps, but most of them are trash. Whats a good tablet without good apps that you use most. For 90% of people the web browser matters most and iOS falls on its ass when it comes to a decent web browser. Windows 8 makes iOS feel like a kids toy.

    Though for $500 it should come with the keyboard.
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    MS Office... That's all I need.
  • augiem - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    This is everyone's first reaction, but it shouldn't be if you've been paying attention. We've all known since the announcement that Surface is meant to be a showpiece and a benchmark to set the bar high as the premium Windows 8 tablet. They made a big deal about the molded magnesium case and followed Apple by securing agreements for a steady supply of the raw material before production. MS made it crystal clear it was always meant to be a direct competitor to the iPad, not a competitor to cheap tabs -- that's the job of MS's partners. Microsoft would seriously have shot themselves in the foot if they had released a very price aggressive tablet because all their partners would have just left.
  • augiem - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Furthermore, by selling it only in the MS stores, it's clear they're leaving the big box retail space open for their partners to fill with bargain and mid priced tablets. This tablet is a showpiece, it will not and was never meant to dominate the market.
  • CaedenV - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    As the RT cannot run x86 apps I assumed that they were going to sell it for cheap (~$3-400) in order to get a foothold on the market and get people to start purchasing metro apps in the store. But $500 for something that has no real desktop and cannot run old applications is a bit of a shock to the system.

    3 years ago I purchased a netbook which can do more than this new tablet, and it only cost me $280. Yes, the RT gets better battery, has a better screen, and looks a little better (though not much better), but it is crippled with ARM and is not worth the extra $220 for looks and battery! This is not progress!
  • dagamer34 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    If it were all about cost and capabilities, then netbooks should be flying off of store shelves even now. They aren't. And mostly because while they had a lot of capabilities, the performance of such machines was terrible.

    It's been said over and over again, you get what you pay for.
  • CaedenV - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    You should get what you pay for, but in this you do not. For $500 you can get a full-blown laptop that will run traditional x86 applications, and will blow this out of the water when it comes to the screen, CPU, storage, and even looks, and when you get in the $700 range then you are talking about some very nice devices that these really cannot touch.

    Apple can sell their tablets for high prices because they are apple. they are viewed as the ones who have 'done it right', and were the first to the market with an apparently compelling product. MS is not such a status symbol. Windows users are made up of 4 main groups: Business users (who will not touch this with a 10' pole), budget users (who cannot afford this, or what the most !/$), gamers (whose games will not run on this), and students who may be interested but will have a lot of other options in iOS and Android devices.

    At $500 this is being played up as an iPad competitor, and they are not going to win them over because iPad users want iPads because they are iPads, not because they are the only or best option available. I just really wonder what MS is thinking sometimes.
  • steven75 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Usually you do get what you pay for, except in the case of the Surface RT.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    If MS really wanted to build a bridge between the glut of productivity-minded Windows users and the casual tablet space, they could've offered the 64GB Touch Cover version for $599.

    A hundred dollars sounds petty, but the comfortable amount of storage and keyboard at that price would've cut a clear line between the $500 iPad competitor and the slightly more expensive Windows laptop replacement.

    As it stands now, some users might lust for a $600 tablet with expanded storage (perhaps without the keyboard attachment). I can't imagine why MS would want to put some users in that position.

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