We're well into tablet season with the release of the new Kindles and the almost-certain release of the iPad Mini next month. Microsoft's Surface is in the game too, although we know very little about it. In an interview with the Seattle Times, CEO Steve Ballmer was kind enough to mention the "sweet spot" for Surface pricing. Unfortunately, it's $US500-wide.
"Probably $US300 to about $US700 or $US800" in particular. It's a pretty big sweet spot, but some of Ballmer's other comments are telling. From the Seattle Times:
I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device. ... (When) people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they're chintzier, they're cheaper.
If you say to somebody, would you use one of the 7-inch tablets, would somebody ever use a Kindle (Kindle Fire, $US199) to do their homework? The answer is no; you never would. It's just not a good enough product. It doesn't mean you might not read a book on it....
His comments about the iPad's price and the Kindle's functionality seem to suggest that Surface might position itself as a more expensive but hyper-competent tablet in each tier. The Surface RT could be $US300-$US350 and tout itself as better than the Kindle Fires, the Nexus 7, and potentially the iPad Mini. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro could be as much as the iPad — or even more expensive — and use that price premium as a way frame itself as the better tablet. It doesn't look like Ballmer is concerned about beating the iPad on price.
Of course, we won't really know until the Surface launches on October 26, but it seems unlikely that those $US199 rumours are true, unless they come heavily subsidised by carriers. It looks like Microsoft wants to make real money on these things. [Seattle Times via The Verge]