Secrecy isn't a bad thing when it comes to creating hype for new products. Apple knows this marketing method all too well: historical unveilings now the stuff of Steve Jobs lore. Its secrecy generates excitement and builds suspense and interest in its brand and products.
And who better to take cues from than Apple? Microsoft was clearly borrowing from Apple's playbook when it chose to introduce its new family of Microsoft Surface tablets at a dramatic press event. The room full of blog-ready press members — as well as the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with whom Microsoft has longstanding partnerships sat ready and waiting.
Microsoft's secrecy leading up to the event also encouraged quite a few rumors. And we're inclined to believe that based on a few of them, the latest Windows tablet is a doozy for deal-minded shoppers: that the lower-end Surface RT could debut at a startlingly low price of $199 when it's released on October 26. The source of the rumor comes from an "insider tip" given to Engadget, and, understandably, most media sources are astonished by — and a bit skeptical of — the possibility of a sub-$200 Windows 8 slate.
Does a $199 Price Point Put the Surface in Fire and Nexus Territory?
Back when the Surface was first announced in 32GB and 64GB incarnations, the only hint we had for a price point was from company statements that the Surface RT would be "priced to competitive rates with ARM tablets." Many sources thus speculated that it would sell in the $500 range, and comparisons were made to Apple's most barebones iPad 2 and MacBook Air. Should Engadget's inside source speak the truth though, and the Surface RT actually debuts at $199, it will join Amazon and Google in the $200 market.
But comparisons between Microsoft's Surface RT, the Kindle Fire, and Nexus 7 don't make a whole lot of sense because the Windows slate would provide a far greater value at this price point. From both Amazon and Google, $199 only buys you 8GB worth of storage and a 7" screen. Moreover, the current Kindle Fire is basically a souped-up eReader (although that's likely to change with an anticipated update) with a heavily modified OS.
Meanwhile, the Nexus 7 does have strong features, such as a front-facing camera, NFC technology, and a quad-core Tetra 3 processor, but it still falls short of the level of hardware being offered by the Surface RT. Most online sources are pretty confident that, in spite of a sensationally low rumored price, Microsoft's Surface RT — with its 32GB or 64GB of storage, 10.8" screen, twin-facing cameras, ClearType HD display, and new Windows OS with Microsoft Office — is designed to actually compete with the iPad.
Attempting to Compete with the All-Mighty iPadIt would seem that Microsoft wants to draw the comparison with its Surface to the iPad; just a few months ago, CEO Steve Ballmer spoke openly and confidently of his company's manifesto to leave no space uncovered to Apple. Apple doesn't seem too concerned though, as Tim Cook bluntly dismissed the company's focus on creating laptop-tablet hybrids.
Regardless, it'll take more than bombastic press for Microsoft's Surface to be taken as a serious iPad competitor; and while beating Cupertino on price is one way to go about it, there are many tech insiders who are skeptical about the likelihood of a $199 Surface RT come October. And if that doesn't manifest, these rumors could be pretty damaging if consumers have long prepared for something more affordable.
Do you believe the Surface RT might actually debut at the stunningly low price of $199? If so, will you be more likely to buy it? Can the Surface RT compete with the iPad? Let us know what you think.