The first Microsoft Surface tablet to hit the streets featured a 10.6 inch display and a $499 price tag. But it was soon followed by a Surface Pro tablet with premium specs and an $899 starting price.
That was in 2012 and 2013. Microsoft has continued selling Surface tablets ever since… but the lineup has changed a lot in recent years.
The company’s flagship Surface Pro is still a tablet with a built-in kickstand and optional pen and keyboard support. But the latest model sports a 12.3 inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and prices ranging from $799 (for a Core M3/4GB/128GB model) to $2699 (for Core i7/16GB/1TB).
As for Microsoft’s smaller, cheaper Surface tablets? The company hasn’t launched one since 2015. Interestingly, that means Microsoft abandoned the budget tablet space at about the same time as Apple entered the premium tablet space with the launch of the first iPad Pro.
Now it looks like Microsoft may be giving low-end tablets another try.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Microsoft plans to launch a new line of Surface tablets with 10 inch displays that will sell for around $400. Note that the price does not include a keyboard cover, which will be sold separately… but Bloomberg says lower-cost stylus, keyboard, and mouse accessories are also in development.
The new tablets are expected to ship with Windows 10 Pro software, and to feature Intel processors and graphics. But it’s unclear what chip they’ll use (my money would be on a low-power Celeron or Pentium Gemini Lake processor, but I wouldn’t rule out a Core M3 or Core i3 chip).
They’re also expected to be Microsoft’s first tablets to feature USB Type-C ports for charging and data transfer. And the new tablets will have an updated design with rounded corners. They should be 20 percent lighter than a Surface Pro, but they’re also expected to get less battery life than a Surface Pro.
While Microsoft’s Surface Pro will continue to compete with Apple’s iPad Pro tablets in the high-end space, these new tablets could compete against Apple’st latest entry-level iPads which sell for $329 and up.
Of course, if you want a really cheap option for gaming, web browsing, and media consumption, it’s hard to beat Amazon’s Fire tablets, which sell for as little as $50. But if you want a tablet that offers PC-like functionality, there’s plenty of room for innovation in the $400 space.
Meanwhile, Google is also starting to target this space, not with Android tablets (which have largely failed to capture much market share at this price point), but with Chrome OS 2-in-1 tablets like the upcoming HP Chromebook x2 and Acer Chromebook Tab 10.