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.
$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.
It'll have a 10-inch screen and an available 128GB of storage. Microsoft will try making another inexpensive tablet. Redmond is rumored to launch a new, cheaper slate to compete with the iPad this year, according to Bloomberg's sources. Like Apple's tablet, the device will have rounded corners and a 10-inch screen, along with a kickstand and a USB C port for charging and syncing. It'll cost around $400, or half that of a Surface Pro. Configurations may include 64GB of storage and 128GB of storage, in addition to models with built-in LTE, and there will apparently be a new, lower-priced keyboard cover available as well. In terms of graphics and processors, Intel is on tap to supply both. Versus the current Surface Pro lineup, it's expected that the new lower cost model will weigh less (by 20 percent) and also have shorter battery life (by four hours). The kicker here is that the new lower-cost unit will apparently run Windows 10 Pro -- not Windows 10 S or a different OS like the Surface RT did. The Surface RT never really took off because of its software limitations. At one point, Microsoft gave away 10,000 of them to educators, before dropping the price to $200 for schools. Of course, the $500 Surface 3 exists, but that's three years old by this point. Based on the leaked details, regardless of whatever Microsoft ends up calling this, it could be a perfect fit for a lot of people. iOS isn't without its share of issues, and current Surface Books start at around double the rumored price.
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.