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.
Microsofts always taken a premium approach to its Surface line, showing users what its operating system can do when run on top of the line hardware. Its a model that makes sense for a company with so many ties to third-party hardware manufacturers. But the line thats been so focused on the high-end needs of creative professionals may be getting a budget addition in the near future. According to a new report from Bloomberg, Microsoft is eyeing the end of the year to release a $400 version of the Surface designed to compete more directly with Apples ubiquitous tablet. Of course, many have tried and largely failed to take on the iPad — including Microsoft itself. The company launched the Surface RT half a decade ago, without making much of a splash. These days, the tablet herd has thinned a bit, and Microsoft has established itself as a maker of premium first-party hardware. The new device is said to sport a 10-inch screen, putting it in direct competition with Apples lower-priced iPad. At $400, Microsofts entry would run $70 more than the budget iPads starting price, but would still run considerably less than the $799 Surface Pro. And this being Microsoft, there are expected to be multiple SKUs. The devices reportedly wont ship with a keyboard cover — one of the Surfaces biggest selling points — though theyll all sport a kickstand and feature a USB C port for charging. Microsoft, naturally, wont respond to queries about the device, which is reportedly set for a release in the second half of this year. Given the companys recent push with Windows 10S, the product could certainly make sense as part of the companys push into low priced devices for the education market.