Rumor: Windows 8 tablets could start at $300

The cheapest Apple iPad is priced at $399, while you can pick up a decent tablet running Google Android software for as little as $199. So it’s not surprising that in order to compete, Microsoft and its hardware partners may have to offer at least some Windows 8 tablets at very low prices.

DigiTimes reports that prices for tablets running Microsoft’s next-generation operating system could start at $300.

HP TouchPad Windows 8

That’s not to say all Windows 8 tablets will be dirt cheap. Some could cost as much as $1000, and I suspect convertible ultrabook-style tablets with slide-out keyboards and other premium features may cost even more.

But if Microsoft is serious about challenging Apple’s dominance in the tablet space and Android’s up-and-coming status, the company is going to have to compete on price — and that means ensuring Windows 8 can run on cheap hardware and offering inexpensive licenses to hardware partners.

That said, I’m taking most of this DigiTimes rumor with a grain of salt — partly because DigiTimes is always a hit-or-miss news source, and partly because this particular report seems very specific given that all the information comes from Taiwanese equipment makers, not from Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer, Asus, Toshiba, or any of the other companies sited in the article as planing to actually launch Windows 8 tablets.

 

  • animatio

    may be with arm devices …. question is if the market will accept these windows-non legacy devices or not and to which extent. 

  • Guest

    I’ve been reading that Win 8 tablets (both ARM and x86) will be only around 10% of the 2012 tablet market.  For MS to do better than that, it would have to behave in uncharacteristically MS fashion.

    First off, the ARM license would have to be dirt cheap.  As in $15 or less a pop, which reportedly will include some stripped down version of Office (likely the ad-supported Office Starter that’s being bundled with some Win 7 notebooks).

    Then again, the ARM hardware might have to be at minimum, dual core with significant graphics acceleration, if not quad core. Otherwise, the Win RT experience will be too sluggish.

    MS will have had to do some major slimming down of Windows RT, which I doubt it will ever be able to do, unless it pulls a Windows Starter.  I’ll believe when I see it. 

    Win RT will be coming to market way behind, like Win Phone 7, and will likely suffer a similar fate.  If Win RT turns out like Windows Starter, MS will simply be laughed off by Apple and Google. 

    x86 tablets are a different story, with prices starting at $600, where they are just about currently, on dual core Atom Cedar Trail tablets. 

    Unfortunately, the Windows experience with Cedar Trail and Ivy Bridge will be underwhelming as the CPUs run too hot to make thin and light tablets. 

    You’ll have to wait for Clover Trail for fanless x86 tablets.

    • CyberGusa

       Well, remember that when MS first pushed for dominance in the netbook market they reduced the pre-install price of XP to $15-$35 per unit.  Even Windows 7 Starter Edition wasn’t priced much higher. 

      While MS actually wants to get into the mobile market for its market potential and not just protect its existing market share as it did with netbooks to prevent the spread of alternatives like Linux.

      So MS would be even more motivated to limit costs on ARM and they can more easily do so as they will only be supporting the pre-installed RT on ARM and won’t have to deal with any retail options or more advance feature version options.

      Meaning MS can make flat rate up front deals with the system makers and not worry about unsold unit costs and also with volume licenses they don’t even have to send more than a digital copy with “X” number of allowable installs to further save costs on their part by not having to chip discs, etc. 

      Mind most companies don’t even include a recovery disc anymore and they definitely won’t for Windows RT.  So costs are down to just the cost of the actual software.  Even if they don’t choose to pass on those savings to us it does give them more leeway in markets they want to better leverage their way into.

      Also factor that MS will be adopting a app store setup, and so would see alternative profit from there that could offset any loss in profit at initial OS sale.

      On the ARM hardware, yes, it will definitely have to be a minimum and MS already established minimal requirements.  Even with the next gen ARM chips ARM has only rivaled Intel ATOM level CPU performance.  So barely has enough performance to properly run a desktop OS, let alone the more powerful desktop programs like Photoshop, etc.

      Though lower end versions like Adobe Touch should quickly get ported to provide viable alternatives.

      While Intel may not have a lot to offer for the remainder of this year. We are seeing some small steps of progress.

      Medfield shows Intel has made a lot of progress towards getting towards ARM like power efficiency and costs. 

      Clover Trail is a bit overdue replacement for Oak Trail but like Medfield it brings in the benefit of going 32nm from 45nm, SoC or MCM for smaller and more efficient design, and “burst mode”, which is similar to Intel’s Turbo Boost feature used in their Core i-Series offerings, and also bring in dual core performance.  So it’ll reduce costs, boost performance, and like you suggested make it possible to make fan-less x86 tablets.

      Mind part of the change will be Windows 8 itself, as it will be a more power efficient OS than Windows has traditionally been.  So that’ll help along with the slightly improved hardware.

      The big change though will be in the beginning of 2013 when Intel brings out its 22nm ATOM update.  Since that’s when Intel finally puts the ATOM on the 2 year product cycle and off the original 5 year cycle that’s responsible for the slow rate of progress.  Providing the ATOM with the first major architectural update since it was first introduced.  Along with the advancements provided by going 22nm.

      Meanwhile ARM will still just be getting its footing with 28nm, slowly phasing out the 45nm and 32nm heading towards 2014.  So it’s possible Intel may be able to use the manufacturing gap to help close the cost gap between Intel and ARM and we’ll be seeing both longer run times and better pricing from them.

      Though a lot still needs to happen between now and then and we’ll have to wait and see that everything goes according to plan.  But if you can wait another full year then expect the market to look very different from now.

      • anthonymel

        This is probably the best explanation of things to come I have heard during Windows 8 development.  Does anyone really expect Microsoft and Intel to just miss the price points of today. Microsoft has a long history of “giving their stuff away.”  Intel will benefit from this because they will be open to new markets (tablets and smartphones).  Microsoft will be betting on the Store to make up for lost cost.

        As for ARM it will be around for a long time but the sleeping giant has awaken.  Intel got lazy in the early 2000s and let AMD be the first to x64 and multiple cores.  But Intel came back with processors that ran four times faster than AMD.  I expect the same here in the end.

      • sola

        Giving stuff away will be needed at a MASSIVE scale to allow Microsoft to enter the tablet market.

        By that time Microsoft will have spent a lot of money on WP7 the same way (they are the ones who pick up the bill for all of Nokia’s current blunders) so stock owners will not be so happy.

        While at the same time Windows profits have already gone to the red and only Offices keeps the Windows/Office duo in the black. Windows licensing fees are under a constant threat of desktop Linuxes which are still improving rapidly (never so many kernel contributions from hw companies).

        On WinRT/WOA devices, Office will come free so they will not see money from it. The OS license will have to be practically nonexistent if it wants to challenge Android at the OEM level. Actually, they would need to pay them just like Google pays an OEM for allowing users access to Google’s services.

        At the netbook market they will also see only pocket money from OS licensing fees. When they want to ask for more, you immediately get an ultra-cheap model released with Linux from a big-name OEM just as a warning for Microsoft (the latest pair were the Asus X101 / Samsung N-100).

        Also, x86 devices – while more performant than ARM – are still 1-2 years behind in power efficiency. Only a very successful 22nm transition will really help Intel and even that is not a safe heaven since the 28nm production is rapidly stabilizing at TSMC and Globalfoundries.

        Also, don’t forget that WinRT devices will come with locked boot loaders so a lot of people may not even buy them (since you absolutely have no chance to upgrade the machine if the OEM stops releasing updates – which happens very often after a short time after the release).

        I, for example, will never buy a device with a locked bootloader. I use my hardware for whatever I want.

        So, the $300 price is absolutely needed if they want to see any results and even that may not be enough since there are a tidy number of factors working against them.

      • CyberGusa

         MS doesn’t have to give Windows away to meet that price range.  The OS alone is just a small part of the cost of pre-installed systems and Intel is already pushing for more competitive pricing.

        Prices in general for mobile devices are being pushed down as demand for more affordable solutions has steadily increased.

        While the market appeal of Windows will be a lot stronger than Windows Phone OS ever was and is potentially greater than any mobile OS with the potential of a desktop OS brings.

        Along with the profit potential of the Windows app store helping to compensate for any loss in initial profits.

        Linux, despite being a perfectly good OS, isn’t even a factor as far as desktop versions goes right now.  Since rapid evolving doesn’t change it’s fundamental design and the fact that no one distro has universal support and how that causes much more fragmentation than with Windows. 

        MS even contributes to Linux!

        Linux has just never been handled properly enough to make any serious progress in the traditional laptop/desktop markets.

        Though re-merging the Android kernel with the linux kernal, along with projects like Tizen, could potentially lead to something down the line but right now Linux is only dominant in the server and embedded markets, with iOS and Android being the main competitors in the mobile market for Windows 8.  While OS X is the only real competition for Windows in the laptop/desktop market.

        As to Window RT coming with a locked boot loader, fact is that’s not too unusual for mobile devices in general.  Even with Android you have examples like the Nook Tablet and others with locked boot loaders.

        While the mobile market in general is set up for rapid end of life cycles. 

        Aside from geeks and modders, most people will just use them as they are sold.  So aside from possible negative marketing aspects the locked boot loader shouldn’t be much of a issue if at all.

        Besides, similar priced Intel devices won’t have those limitations and so at worst it’ll just effect ARM devices sales.

        While on power efficiency, Intel is behind but Medfield shows they can get close enough to put out similar products.

        The 22nm update should then either completely close the gap or reduce it enough to no longer matter.

        While on performance, the difference will remain substantial in Intel’s favor.  ARM is still years away from full 64bit and just adding 64bit memory management won’t close the performance gap for them.

        Giving Intel the advantage of providing a more dynamic range of performance offerings. 

        The idea that this will only be hard for Intel doesn’t factor that it will also be hard for ARM.  So the point of overlap isn’t going to matter where both have traditionally excelled but rather whether they can adapt to what the other has been good at all this time as well.

        While only time will tell how Windows 8 will do and whether it’ll be the first desktop OS to go mainstream in the mobile market or not.

      • sola

        TSMC plans to ramp up its 20nm process at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, so Intel will be under pressure again soon because its process advantage will be gone again. (http://semimd.com/blog/2011/10/25/tsmc-mulls-new-finfet-target-date/)

        Meanwhile the 28nm production is ramping up quickly and the first Cortex-A15/A7 products should be out in the second half of the year.

        That puts Intel safely back 1year again in performance/w ratio in the ARM/intel competition.

        I don’t see that Intel is closing on that much on ARM. Of course Atom has become much better (mostly due to the process advancements) but the distance between leading ARM and leading low-power Intel is still significant.

        It is not a surprise that fanless x86 tablets are still nowhere to be found (at least not visibly in the hands of people).

      • CyberGusa

         Don’t confuse the plans with actual manufacturing.  It can take up to 2 years from sample production before they get mass produced. Even on time production can take a year to fully ramp up.

        28nm for example was suppose to be out already but many had to resort to 32nm because 28nm isn’t ready yet and 28nm production may need another full year before it reaches full production capacity.

        Besides, TSMC plans to cut some corners and options in order to get 20nm going on time.  So will only offer one flavor of the 20nm, versus 4 that they’re offering for 28nm. 

        So they’ll only be able to do one kind of 20nm chips and not cover the range that most are use to now.  Assuming of course they have no other issues that will further delay production.

        While Intel is going 14nm as soon as 2014 and isn’t going to be cutting any corners, as they will be updating their entire line of chips.

        Also TSMC stated they might have to offer 18nm or 16nm process node after 20nm if lithography technology is not available to make 14nm devices cost effectively.  So Intel’s lead with 14nm may last even longer than it’s 22nm lead.

  • sola

    The $300 price is not that good anymore.

    The Android ecosystem will see a huge surge of ultra-cheap Android tablets with IPS-style screens and dual-core Cortex A9 processors (e.g.: the Rockchip RK3066 is already shipping) in the second half of the year. The current cheap-SOC-king, the Boxchip A10 will be replaced with similarly priced dual-Cortex-A9 designs (Renesas, Rockchip…etc).

    Those will be around $200-$250 end-user price for a 10″ tablet and $150+ for the 7″ versions.

    All with capacitive, acceptable viewing-angle screens (obviously not Super IPS+ but at least 1024*768 resolution for 10″)

    Those SOC manufacturers are firmly in the Android camp and will likely ship products only with Android ICS.

    So Windows partners will need to ship very good quality tablets with at least 1280*800 IPS screens and 1GB RAM to be at least competitive at the spec/price level.

    Moreover, the WinRT camp will have a big disadvantage at apps. Android will have a huge number of tablet-customized apps compared to WinRT by the time the first WinRT tablets arrive later of the year.

    All in all, the $300 price will NOT ensure success. It is the basic requirement for the new player for the minimal chance of success.

    • CyberGusa

       Android is a mobile OS, it doesn’t offer the full range of capabilities and features that a desktop OS offers.  While the performance range of the cheaper devices are lower and less energy efficient.

      The Rockchip RK3066 for example will still be based on the aging Cortex A9.  While Rockchips in general are mainly optimized for PMP usage and thus tend to do better graphically than in CPU performance.

      While cheaper devices also tend to have lower build quality and fewer capabilities and features.

      The A10 might be more appealing as it can support Linux and there is an open source kernel for people to work with for it, but for those who want the most bang for their buck then, contrary to your contention, $300 is still a good price point!

      Especially when most mainstream tablets, at least those that don’t cut features and/or capabilities or supplement cost with alternative revenue, are still above $300 in pricing.