Microsoft’s Surface tablet will launch as a Wi-Fi-only device, according to a report from Bloomberg. And though Microsoft has remained ambiguous about its tablet’s pricing, saying it will be “comparable” to tablets with similar specs, a report from The Next Web indicates the Windows RT model will start at $599, and the Windows 8 Pro model will start at $999.
At the Surface’s unveiling Monday, Microsoft execs pointed out that the tablet comes with 2×2 MIMO antennas, giving the device a very strong Wi-Fi connection. But there was no mention of 3G or 4G connection capabilities.
While Apple’s iPad does come in a 4G-enabled model, it might not hurt Microsoft’s Surface sales by much if it opts to not include this capability, as the majority of tablet users rely solely on Wi-Fi connections. According to NPD Group’s research, 65 percent of tablet users connect using only Wi-Fi and skip the option to purchase a mobile broadband plan. The study attributes this to the high cost of data plans, and to the fact that Wi-Fi connections are available in many locations. For mainstream consumers, paying less for an actual tablet and not getting a data plan is more appealing than the alternative.
Microsoft could also be going Wi-Fi-only to keep its Surface price down, making it competitive with the iPad. But it doesn’t look like the Surface will undercut the iPad in any way. The starting price is supposedly set at $599 for the 32GB model — that’s exactly the same cost as the latest 32GB Wi-Fi-only iPad, and it’s significantly more expensive than competing Android tablets.
On the higher end, Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 Pro will reportedly cost $999, which is about the same price as an ultrabook. It’s not a surprise, considering how often Microsoft execs referred to the Surface as “a powerful PC” during Monday’s launch. If the tablets come bundled with the Touch Cover or Type Cover, then the high price would make more sense. Still, it might come as sticker shock to consumers who are used to seeing tablets for much less.
Of course, Microsoft has not confirmed these prices, or whether the Surface will have cellular data capabilities. The company could make any number of changes to the tablet lineup in the months leading up to the device’s expected fall launch.