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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  • Penti - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    You can already run C# code on iOS or Android since years back (Mono).

    You could in theory but not really practiced have run much of the WinPhone 7.X code in Silverlight on Windows.

    The real advantage of a new Windows platform is native apps, i.e. C++/C. I.e. you can actually port games to the platform without completely rewriting the game engines, middleware, game logic etc.
  • kirsch - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    They are trying to position this as a high-end product that is more capable than Android or iOS (whether that's true remains to be seen). The base price matches the iPad's base price. So I actually think it's fine.

    But I think that this confirms that the x86 version will be more expensive, and that the average consumer - the one that does not read AnandTech - will be VERY confused as to which to buy. Microsoft is really delivering a confusing message: No matter what you buy, you feel like you made sacrifices and you can never be 100% satisfied.
  • steven75 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    What's monkey boy always say? DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS.

    Well the developers have already made 250,000+ applications for the iPad while the Surface RT will have 4,000 at best.

    Out of the gate it'll be an order of magnitude *less* capable than and iPad simply because just about anything you can imagine already exists as an iPad app, including full touch-enabled office suites.
  • steven75 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    "No matter what you buy, you feel like you made sacrifices and you can never be 100% satisfied."

    Totally agree. Microsoft has called Windows 8 no compromises when the reality is it's NOTHING BUT compromises!
  • chizow - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    What kind of performance differences are we expecting between the T3+RT versions and the IVB+8 versions?

    Hopefully Microsoft collapses and standardizes some of these options though, I hate the idea of being in peripheral hell with all of these minor configuration changes that result in huge price differences.

    Also definitely needs an SD slot for expandable storage, but otherwise I'm pretty impressed. Would definitely buy this over an Ultrabook, iPad, or Androidtab at this point, so the pricing makes sense.
  • Aqua1ung - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    The S2110 is slimmer and lighter, and has a bigger surface (16:10 compared w/Surface's 16:9). Not to mention cheaper ($419 for the 32G version). See here: http://goo.gl/bhtDN.
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    The Surface is better built, has an option for a magnetic keyboard cover, and has a built-in stand.

    Well worth the extra $80.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    And the keyboard costs another $100...
  • Houdani - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    There's no way that keyboard is worth a $100 ($120 for colors) premium. It should have been included in the base price with your choice of colors. That might have justified the too high $500 price tag.

    The Touch/Type Cover *is* a good idea and a differentiator. But not if it's sold seperately.

    The screen resolution and price are non-starters for me. And I really wanted to jump on board, too.

    Way to hit the ground running. Eric Decker style.
  • sinhan - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I changed my mind. I will not buy the RT with this price.

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