Microsoft is working on a new line of budget Surface tablets to better compete with Apples low-cost iPad options, according to a report from Bloomberg. According to the report, the new Surface tablets wont just be smaller, cheaper Surface Pros. Rather, Microsoft is said to be completely redesigning the devices, with 10-inch screens instead of the 12-inch size currently found on the Surface Pro, rounded corners that more resemble an iPad than the more rectangular Surface design, and USB-C for charging. Most importantly, priced at $400, they will be more in line with Apples cheaper tablets, too. Bloomberg also claims that the new models will be around 20 percent lighter than the current Surface Pro, although that reduced weight comes at the cost of around four hours fewer of battery life. Like the full-size Surface, the new budget Surface computer will feature Intel processors and graphics, and run the full version of Windows 10 Pro. (No word on whether or not S Mode will be enabled by default, which may make sense given the budget nature of the device.) And like the iPad, Microsoft is said to be planning on models that offer LTE connectivity, which the company finally brought to the full-size Surface Pro earlier this year. The iconic Surface kickstand is also said to be sticking around, although the new models wont come with a keyboard or stylus in the box. Microsoft is apparently working on new, cheaper versions of the keyboard cover, stylus, and mouse to accompany the new Surface tablets; the current model costs an extra $159. The cheapest version of the current generation Surface Pro starts at $799, compared to the base model 9.7-inch iPad that (while not a comparable device spec-wise) costs just a fraction of that price tag at $329. The new budget Surface models wont be Microsofts first attempt to make a cheaper Surface tablet. Past years have seen models like the $499 Surface RT, Surface 2, and Surface 3 models, but the lineup was never able to achieve the same success as the more powerful Surface Pro versions, and Microsoft eventually discontinued the Surface 3 back in 2016.
Though this may sound familiar, Microsoft is reportedly planning a line of lower-cost Surface tablets to challenge Apples least expensive iPads later this year. The new tablets are expected to start at around $400, down from the $799 starting point of current Surface Pro models. Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg suggests that pressure to find a high-volume hit rivaling iPad unit sales has compelled the company to redesign Surface to be more like the iPad. The report says that the new Surface will feature 10-inch screens, iPad-like rounded edges, and battery life closer to the iPads promised 10 hours than the prior Surface claim of 13.5 hours. Microsoft is also said to be adopting USB-C for the first time, similar to Apples use of the Lightning connector for iPads. On a positive note, the changes will reportedly allow the Surface to be lighter and less expensive. Bloomberg reports that the devices will lose 20 percent of their current weight, falling from 1.7 pounds to around 1.4 pounds — still more than the one-pound iPad — while preserving their integrated kickstands. Beyond cutting the new tablets prices, Microsoft will apparently also offer less expensive versions of its keyboard cover, stylus, and mouse accessories, which will be sold separately. It goes without saying that Microsoft has previously tried and failed to take on lower-cost iPads. The companys non-Pro tablet, Surface 3, was released for $499 in 2015 with a 10.8-inch display to compete against the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2. In early 2016, Apple cut that iPads price to $399, matching the price tag of the smaller iPad mini 4 and leading Microsoft to withdraw from the lower end of the market later that year. That decision left Microsoft to chase a smaller number of premium customers at a much higher price point. Over the last year, Apple has sold roughly 44 million iPads, generating nearly $20 billion in revenue, versus Microsofts $4.4 billion in Surface revenue across the entire line — including desktops and laptops — during the same time. The smaller Surface will reportedly come in 64GB and 128GB configurations, as well as Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi/LTE versions. Microsoft will also preserve Windows 10 Pro support and continue to use Intel CPU and GPU components. Whether these features and the included kickstand are enough to justify a $70 price gap with Apples latest entry-level $329 iPad remains to be seen.