$400 Intel-powered device reported to be coming later this year. Bloomberg reports that Microsoft is going to release a $400, 10-inch, Intel-powered Surface tablet in the second half of the year, in a renewed effort to take on the iPad. This represents a return to a strategy the company has tried before. The original ARM Surface RT and Surface 2 and the Intel-equipped Surface 3 were all attempts to offer a low(ish) priced tablet operating in the same approximate market as the iPad. None saw any great success, however, and the Surface 3 was discontinued in late 2016. The winner in the Surface line has been the more expensive Surface Pro series: Microsoft found a formula that worked with the Surface Pro 3 and has seen steady sales and a proliferation of copycat devices. The problem with Surface Pro is the price: the current-generation Surface Pro starts at $799. This makes it a hard sell for markets such as education, where it's going up against systems such as Apple's new $329 iPad (sold to schools for $299), and various Chromebooks running Google's Chrome OS. Bloomberg writes that the new tablet will break from the Surface line's square styling, instead having a more rounded look, and will use USB Type-C—not the proprietary Surface Connect port—for its charging and syncing. Weight will be around 20 percent less than the current Pros, with battery life of around 9-10 hours. Storage sizes of 64 and 128GB are planned, as is a version with LTE connectivity.
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.