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Report: Microsoft is going to try to make a cheap Surface tablet… again

$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.

A $400 Microsoft Surface may be on the way

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.