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Microsoft plans lower-cost Surface tablets to battle Apple

17 May 2018

Microsoft is planning to release a line of lower cost Surface tablets that could compete with the Apple iPad, reports Bloomberg. Selling a cheap Surface is a unsafe game however, as it's probably unwise for Microsoft to try and undercut its partners when it comes to Windows hardware.

Today's reports bring back memories of the ill-fated Surface RT tablet, which ran on the ARM processors.

This won't be the first time Microsoft tried to sell low-priced Surface Tablets (remember Surface RT?) but it looks like the company has a better strategy in place this time. The lack of space will cut into the room slotted for the battery, however, and battery life is said to be four hours shorter than that of the Surface Pros. But the $400 Surface tablet will apparently be the first of Microsoft's PC to rely on USB-C for power.

Microsoft declined to comment on the report. In reality, though, people don't upgrade their tablet as often as their smartphone, so it's hard to figure out how many active devices each company has on the market. Revenue rose 32 percent in the most recent quarter, indicating new interest in Microsoft's hardware. Last year Apple sold nearly $20 billion in iPads, whereas Microsoft's professional Surface line sold just $4.4 billion. Microsoft may have decided it was time to change that; the rumored tablets would upgrade previous offerings in a big way. That compares with 9.1 million iPads sold in the same period.

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These are obviously pricier than some of the world's most popular slates, generating heftier profit margins, but losing the sales volume battle to Apple's more diverse iPad portfolio. The new cheaper Surfaces could likewise appeal to students and teachers, and to schools that buy less-expensive devices in bulk.

Current Surface Pro devices start at $799. And this being Microsoft, there are expected to be multiple SKUs.

Each model will have a 10-inch screen, which is comparable to the standard iPad, though it's noticeably smaller than the Surface Pro laptops.

There will also be less-expensive version of the company's keyboard cover, stylus and mouse.

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There will be versions with 64 and 128 GB of storage, and models that connect to LTE cellular networks. Unlike the existing Surface Pro tablets, this one will come with rounded edges just like the iPad Pro devices. The idea is to hit a market dominated so far by Apple and its iPads, the sources added.

Of course, the tablet market has changed considerably since the Surface and iPad had their first matchup.

That, of course, was the whole strategy behind the original Microsoft Surface that launched with Windows 8 in 2012. It's also possible the company might change its mind at the last moment, like it did with the aborted Surface Mini debut in 2014, and this whole rumor ends up being meaningless.

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Microsoft plans lower-cost Surface tablets to battle Apple