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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  • fteoath64 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    So will several million others. And many who was considering Android 10 inch devices will quickly make their purchase there laughing when they see users trying multple times to gesture on Surface before the action actually registers on that tablet. Crude for sure and Metro looks really horrible for such a big screen. Very refined tablets like ICS and iPads are just the ones thus Surface needs to compete with. If they think they wanted to compete with netbooks, then price points are even lower!. Double fail for RT. But Pro will do well mainly because it is the only choice for legacy X86 users to upgrade.
  • This Guy - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I've got Win 8 RC on an Acer W501. Works fine. It is a shame that Microsoft is so far behind the ball it can't beat the responsiveness of year old tech using cutting edge technologies. I also find it nice that you can review a device before it is released. Because that's why we all read Anandtech for. Quick and lacking reviews.

    I'll be the first to say I am not as lucky as you and have not played with this tablet. The all the other tech journos I follow who said it looked classy didn't get to touch it so I'm guessing they are all wrong.

    I'm also glad to see that Microsoft has seen the light and stopped licencing their software. Why should other companies get to proffit from Microsoft when Microsoft invested so much money into making Windows 8? I do find it weird that Microsoft is releasing Windows 8 three months before the tabet. What will we run it on? an iPad?

    fteoath64, I'm sure you're a champ. This ain't Engadget. Please read this site more. It's really good :)
  • ricardodawkins - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    For $699 Microsoft is offering a 64GB Surface RT with a bundled black Touch Cover. There is no 64GB SKU without a Touch Cover.

    This isn't Apple you know. Just pop in a 32GB+ microsd card on the slot and you got a 64GB Surface far lower than 699
    599 USD - 32GB bundle + 30 USD 32GB microSD card.
  • dyc4ha - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    People commenting on the high prices of the Surface are missing the point. While it is true that in terms of productivity this is of a very poor value, this product however is aimed at a specific consumer market, and more specifically the iPad market. With the Surface priced so close to the iPad, yet it delivers MS Office and thus more productivity, it is no longer just a 'cool toy'.
  • jbwhite99 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    1. When will get a Microsoft store here in the Triangle?
    2. People will not buy something completely new without touching it, so they need to get some out there
    3. I do like having a USB port (loved the "how they designed" on the other article) - can I plug in a 32GB USB key to go to 64GB

    I do agree that $499 is high, but it is $100 less than iPad 3 with 32GB.

    However, with that being said, will look at one of the new Lenovo offerings, or a Nexus 7 (the new 32GB ones when they come out). Lenovo's equivalent tablet is a little more expensive, but it has Atom inside, and runs regular Windows.
  • notanakin - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I was waiting eagerly for this, but the pricing is too high for me. No doubt MS has its reasons, but to pay this much for.... well, what? It's not running standard Windows 8, so what exactly is it running and what is it for?

    If I don't need the keyboard, I might was well get an iPad. If I DO need a decent keyboard, it's because I'm going to be using Office in a serious way, but then I might as well buy a proper laptop/ultrabook that runs real Windows 8. Why take on the risk and headache of working out just how compromised this experience is going to be with this... thing, at this price?
  • dexterx - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I had lot of hopes on this product but all spoiled with very bad pricing..

    If one have to pay $500...why should one prefer this??...iPad is anytime better at same price with better display and lot more choice of apps..

    probably $350-400 would have been a good bet...or @ $500 MS should offer atleast Full HD display...

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