Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has revealed that his company won't be going all out to undercut the competition on price with the Surface, its forthcoming Windows 8 tablet. Rather the device will be aiming for premium features and build quality like the iPad.
Ballmer's comments run contrary to persistent rumours that Microsoft would price the Surface aggressively in order to get a quick hold on the tablet market. It had previously been reported that the company might sell its classy slates at Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire-rivaling prices of around £150 to £200.
That now doesn't appear likely. Indeed, speaking to The Seattle Times, Ballmer effectively denied these rumours while putting down those aforementioned cheap rivals: "I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device," he said. "(When) people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they're chintzier, they're cheaper."
Ballmer then addressed the Kindle Fire directly, saying "If you say to somebody, would you use one of the 7-inch tablets, would somebody ever use a Kindle (Kindle Fire, $199) 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..."
So how much will the Surface range retail for? Ballmer didn't say directly, but he did drop hints of a "sweet spot" for PC devices of between $300 and $800. Given his earlier dismissal of the cheaper end of that scale (and downplaying of the iPad's perceived premium price), we'd hazard a guess that the Surface RT will be pitched at around the $400 to $500 mark.
Yep, we're probably talking iPad prices - potentially a little cheaper.
The Surface represents a rare foray for Microsoft into the computer hardware field. It will come in two basic flavours - a full-powered Pro version that will run on and Intel processor and run full Windows 8, just like a laptop, and a stripped-back Windows 8 RT model that will sport similar hardware to existing tablets and a more restricted ecosystem.
We should see the Surface released alongside Windows 8 on October 26 - at least in the basic RT guise.