Most of us who care about technology have already seen (and fallen in love with) the Surface tablet by Microsoft, the design is breathtaking, the simplicity astounding, and the ultra thin keyboard is genius. For a while now speculations about the price have gone up as high as $700 for the base 8GB RT model, however today some very interesting rumors have popped up stating that the Surface RT (running the lite version of Windows 8) could cost as low as $199!!!
Obviously this is awesome news for anyone hoping to snag one of these beauties; personally even though I thoroughly enjoy using my iPad I would pick one of these up in a heartbeat if this price turns out to be true. My mind has already started calculating what color would be the smartest choice, I'm thinking a black keyboard, or maybe white, but definitely not Cyan or the other colors simply because they're dirt magnets. Alas once again I've gotten ahead of myself, so back on topic.
What could this low low pricing mean for the tablet world as a whole, and for Win8 OEMs specifically? First off forget the Kindle Fire, forget the Google Nexus 7 this will be the "game changer" and it really will be one. Unlike the other two tablets I mentioned which were built on a budget in mind (the Fire more than the Nexus 7) the Surface RT obviously had no expense spared. The pop-out stand is a stroke of genius showing exactly how much thought went into this beauty. The other major difference to be pointed out is the fact that the Surface carries a whopping 10.6" screen a monster compared to the two 7 inchers, which would also make the Surface one of the cheapest 10" tablets ever made (Chinese knockoffs aside).
So we've established that the Surface at this price would demolish any other similarly priced tablet and give the iPad a VERY good run for its money, but what about those other poor OEMs who had oh so great plans for Windows 8? First of all make no mistake about it, this is a nasty move by Microsoft; after all who can hope to compete with those folks from Seattle on their own OS (hint: Microsoft is based in Seattle). I'm sure most of the major OEMs out there who have licensing deals with Microsoft are taking a good long look at their strategies, cause you see as big as an advantage as owning the OS your manufacturing for is that's nothing compared to the advantage you gain when you don't need to make money off selling your product.
Yes, Microsoft could be selling these Surface tablets for a $200 loss a pop (highly unlikely) and they'd still come out smiling, simply because they don't need the money right now. All Microsoft really want to do is establish a foothold in the tablet market, make those iPad fanboys think twice before lining up a week before the next launch. The Surface is a great way to get Windows 8 (RT and full Windows 8) out in the wild, making it an afterthought of the purchase (which was driven by the insanely low price) rather than a major contender in the decision. Then of course Microsoft would still have their trump card that no other OEM developing for them has, 30% Marketplace share. Yes, for every dollar you spend in the Marketplace big ol' Redmond gets 30 Cents, not much but what about those expensive apps? Photoshop can run up to $700 for the full version, pretend the Surface RT version would only cost $50, Microsoft would make $15 per license sold and those can add up very quickly. It's basically the same game Sony plays with their PlayStation devices, selling the console for a loss, but knowing that the consumer has no choice but to return to them to actually make any use of the product.
Basically if Microsoft chooses to go down the aggressive pricing path they could sell the Surface by the boatload, but is it worth risking their carefully crafted alliances with their OEMs? Well that's up to Steve Ballmer.
The title of the article asks "if there's a catch?", Sure there is, but not for you; for every other OEM out there definitely, for Microsoft absolutely; But as far as you the consumer is concerned (I assume Ballmer isn't reading this article) by all means go crazy, because this is the future for a couple hundred dollars cheaper.