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Microsoft's $560 Windows Surface tablet hits Australia next week

By David Flynn     Filed under: tablets, Microsoft, travel tech, Windows 8

Microsoft's Windows Surface tablet will launch in Australia next Friday, October 26, starting at $559 and ranging up to $779, with pre-orders now available through the online Microsoft Store.

The base model of the 10.6 inch Windows tablet with 32GB of storage comes fully kitted out with 2GB of RAM, WiFi and Bluetooth.

There are front- and rear-facing 720p HD cameras, plus a microSD memory card slot and full-size USB 2.0 port – no fiddling with tiny plugs!

However, Microsoft seems to have opted for a proprietary 'HD video out port', for which you'll need a near-$60 Surface HD Digital AV Adapter to hook up to an HDMI display.

Still, that's a pretty solid-sounding package for under $600, and we think the inbuilt kickstand which props the tablet up towards the user is a clever little touch.

That price doesn't get you the unique pressure-sensitive Touch Cover which protects the screen but flips forward to act as a wafter-thin (3mm) keyboard to create a stunning ultrabook-tablet hybrid.

The 32GB Surface with Touch Cover sells for $679; shoot for 64GB of storage and things top out at $779.

You can also buy Touch Covers on their own at $140.

Note that none of these tablets comes with 3G or 4G mobile broadband: if that degree of connectivity is paramount to you, we suggest you keep a 3G-WiFi modem at hand.

The highly-anticipated Surface tablet is a standout for two reasons beyond the product itself.

For starters, it's the first time Microsoft has produced anything near its own PC: the company has previously drawn the line at the Xbox game consoles, keyboards, mice and the like.

However, determined not to have Windows miss the tablet Tsunami and not willing to leave its fate in the hands of PC manufacturers churning out uninspiring designs, Microsoft has in effect jumped into competition with its hardware partners.

As a result, the Surface's eye-catching design, sub-700 gram weight and Twiggy-esque 9.4mm width – not to mention the undeniable 'wow' factor and affordable price points – are exactly what Microsoft feels to gain traction in the tablet market.

Secondly, this debut model of Surface runs a special lightweight version of Windows 8 called Windows RT.

Windows RT (which stands for 'Run-Time' and couldn't possibly be burdened with a more geeky, less appealing moniker) has in turn been built around the low-power ARM processors common to most tablets, including the iPad and its Android challengers.

You don't get the full-blown Windows 8 experience but you get the next best thing: core Windows features and functionality, including the slick new 'Metro' user interface, in a slim light package with all-day battery life.

There's even a special RT version of Microsoft Office 2013 – including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote – bundled into the Surface, so right out of the box you're ready to get to work.

And while you won't be able to run regular Windows software on Windows RT, Microsoft is lining up a fleet of new Windows RT apps to be available through Microsoft’s online Windows Store

If you want the full-blown Windows operating system, with full desktop-grade features and the ability to use all your favourite software, Microsoft will serve that up on a second edition of the Surface in the early 2013.

For more details, click through to Surface.com.

For updates on business travel and travel tech, follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 17/10/12 by wdeguara

Did you notice how in Australia we pay almost $200 more than the pricing offered to US customers ? I mean - really !

64Gb - US customers pay US$699 (AU customers pay AU$789)

32Gb - US customers pay US$599 (AU customers pay AU$679)

32Gb with touch cover - US customers pay $499 (AU customers pay $559)

 

1 on 17/10/12 by David

Don't forget that the listed US prices don't include any sales tax, as sales tax varies from one US state to the next – so tax has to be added onto those prices depending on which state you live in (in almost half the states it's 8-10%, for example).

By comparison, Australian prices include sales tax, because we have one national GST of 10% .

So if you add 10% to the US prices, you seriously close the gap: for example, the entry-level Surface lists at US$499, adding 10% takes this to US$549 – only US$10 less than the Aussie model.

Do the same maths on the other Surface models and you get the same result with a very close promixity to Aussie prices.

(Also, worth noting that in the USA the Surface has a one-year warranty, in Australia it's a two-year warranty.)

1 on 17/10/12 by wdeguara

Good pickup, David.  

1 on 17/10/12 by David

No worries, it's quite common for people to miss this factor when they do the US vs AU price comparo.

2 on 17/10/12 by Al

This sounds perfect for so many people like me, who have to "live in the Windows world" at work and also would rather have a proper keyboard for their tablet. Very eager to try one when they go on sale!

1 on 19/10/12 by spinoza

Some tech blogs were speculating it would have a starting price as low as $199 to try to compete with the iPad, so I am a little surprised that it is roughly the same price. Granted the base model gives you 32gb vs 16gb, but I read that after installing the operating system, it is like 20gb vs 14gb, so pretty much the same. 

At this price point I think they will struggle to compete. Not sure people yet realise it will not run any legacy windows software, it has little to no resemblance to the old windows, it will still have no apps; basically a larger version of the windows phone. If I wanted a tablet but not an iPad, the Nexus 7 gives me a great experience with much more apps at just $199 (and a much better screen).

Given the lack of compatibility with legacy apps, I'm not sure what the synergy will be between a Surface and Windows PC. E.g. if all my computers were Windows PCs today, I don't think there's any extra benefit to me getting a Windows Phone over an iPhone or an Android phone. There's no special relationship/synergy.

I hear no one outside MS has used the keyboard yet, so no one knows if it will actually be anywhere as good as a proper keyboard. It is also selling for $100, so my bet is that if it works well, Belkin or someone will come out with a similar product for iPad quite soon.

Anyway, back to the price point, its surprising to me, because the iPad should cost more to make (due to the retina display, which surface doesnt have), and Apple is known to have high margins (~30% for iPad), so at this price point, either MS is aiming for similar margins, OR it is just more expensive at hardware production and this is as cheap as it can sell it. Personally I would have charged at least $100 dollars cheaper to push for volume and get developers on board. Otherwise there's a not remote chance that this could be as successful as the RIM Playbook. 

(all prices in USD)

3 on 25/10/12 by Jake

Do we know the official release date in stores here in Australia? 

 

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