Microsoft Planning Low-Cost Surface Line to Compete With Apple's $329 iPad

May 16, 2018 6:19 am PDT by Mitchel Broussard
As Apple's iPad and Microsoft's Surface continue to compete in the tablet market, a new report out today by Bloomberg claims that Microsoft is planning its next tablet line to be lower-cost in an effort to attract people to Surface products who aren't interested in the more expensive Surface Pro. The move is directly aimed at competing with Apple's recently launched $329 iPad, and could see Microsoft debut the devices as soon as the second half of 2018.

According to people familiar with the company's plans, the tablets will be priced at around $400, so they would still be more expensive than Apple's cheapest options. They will be the first Surface devices to adopt USB-C and rounded edges "like an iPad," instead of the square corners of the current devices. Storage tiers will include 64GB and 128GB, as well as LTE options, and the devices will feature 10-inch screens.

In an effort to make the tablets 20 percent lighter than the high-end $799 Surface Pro, Microsoft is believed to sacrifice battery life by as much as "four hours fewer" than the current generation (13.5 hours for Surface Pro). Not much is known about the insides of the upcoming tablets, but the people said that Intel will supply the main processor and graphics chips.

The devices will continue to have the kickstand for upright typing and video watching seen in current Surface models, and they will run Windows 10 Pro. Ultimately, the company is trying to enter the low-cost market again after previous attempts with the Surface RT in 2012 and the Surface 3 in 2015, which both started at $499 and performed poorly in comparison to the growing Surface Pro line.
Microsoft has struggled to find a high-volume hit with the Surface devices as well as to introduce a flow of new choices to keep growth steady. In the fiscal year that ended last June, Surface revenue declined 2 percent as the company faced lower volume sales owing to an aging Surface Pro line. Revenue rose 32 percent in the most recent quarter, indicating new interest in Microsoft’s hardware.

Apple sold about 44 million iPads that generated almost $20 billion in revenue during the past four quarters. Microsoft’s entire Surface hardware business produced $4.4 billion for the same period.
Microsoft is believed to be looking at Apple's education-focused iPad launch from earlier in 2018, and the new Surface models "could likewise appeal to students and teachers," as well as schools that look into buying cheap tablets in bulk. With the cheaper Surface, the company is planning low-cost updates to its keyboard cover, stylus, and mouse. Prices haven't yet been pinpointed, but as a comparison the current keyboard cover runs for $160.

Apple's low-cost iPad includes Apple Pencil support, an A10 Fusion chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture, a Retina display, enhanced cameras, and advanced sensors with a gyroscope and accelerometer, which fuel powerful augmented reality apps through ARKit. Although the iPad is normally $329 for consumers when not on sale, Apple sells it at $299 to schools and says that the tablet was built for mobility and durability for students, sporting an aluminum unibody construction.

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Top Rated Comments

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23 months ago
I don't really see iPad and Surface as competing products. A small memory iPad is perfectly usable for most things people use cheap iPad's for (media, email, web, social). A small memory Surface will just be awful for what people use a real computer for.

Also interesting how MS will have a new model this year, but it takes Apple 5 years to get anything designed and out the door.

Not sure why anyone would buy this crap. The surface is an awful tablet and a mediocre laptop.

Careful...your Apple bias is showing with ridiculous statements like this.
Rating: 28 Votes
23 months ago
"They will be the first Surface devices to adopt USB-C and rounded edges "like an iPad," instead of the square corners of the current devices."

I'm kinda surprised they'd lose the square edges, not only is it an industrial design separator that visually marks the device as "not being an iPad" from any distance. But also, it works well with the actual square edge UI of Windows.
Rating: 26 Votes
23 months ago
Not sure why anyone would buy this crap. The surface is an awful tablet and a mediocre laptop.
Rating: 19 Votes
23 months ago

Not sure why anyone would buy this crap. The surface is an awful tablet and a mediocre laptop.

Let's suppose you want a tablet, have to run the full version of Microsoft Office and only have $400. Is that reason enough for someone to want to buy this crap?
Rating: 14 Votes
23 months ago
I am buying a Surface Book. At least their keyboard works.
Rating: 14 Votes
23 months ago
The problem is, low budget machines running Windows are really really bad. I just cannot see a $329 surface running anywhere near as efficient as the iPad. Hopefully they prove me wrong, because I would definitely buy one for work.
Rating: 12 Votes
23 months ago

Careful...your Apple hate is showing with ridiculous statements like this.

Coming from a surface owner, he’s right - it’s a crappy tablet and sub par computer

As a former SP4 owner, I concur. With the random reboots, freezes, excessive heat, loud fan, and 1/2 the advertised battery life, I was glad to get rid of the thing. That said, the pen, with magnetic attachment and ability to activate an App through clicking the top (like a real pen) was the best thing about the device.
Rating: 12 Votes
23 months ago
The surface may not be perfect but it certainly has ruffled a few feathers in the industry.

With apple abandoning their pro line a huge amount of professionals have moved on... if they are using windows workstations it makes sence to use windows portables.

Especially with how poor the newest gen MBP has been and how poorly structured the mac line up is. Full of compromise and product similarity that actually makes choosing a product extremely difficult. The forums are full of these questions and it shouldn't be this difficult.

Same with Mac OS, HS has been a joke. With most professional apps now cloud based the OS is not as integral because they offer the same experience across platforms... With apple refusing to give people tech options. These days its put up shut up or move on.

People are fed up and the latter seems the direction of a lot of people.

At least with the competition there seems to be an interest are re imagining what the laptop is and what it can do. Having a touch screen with the pen with a fully fledged OS is probably the best thing thats happened for creatives in the industry for a long time.

To get the same experience you would have to buy a full desktop machine then then buy something like a wacom cintique which are as expensive as a laptop on its own. This is such a great plus for an artist, illustrator, designer or photographer. Once you have used a machine like this its hard to go back. So much more tactile.

On the other hand you would need to buy a macbook pro and an ipad to have the same functionality on the apple side. The iPad still doesn't offer fully fledged apps, the apps it does are half baked with half the functionality meaning its not a replacement for anyone serious and yet the ipad pro is £1000 in a decent config.

Yet the macbook does everything better, better keyboard for email, word processing, it stands on its own if you want to watch in bed instead of holding it. Main thing it doesnt have a touch screen or a pen... yet anywhere you would want to use the amazing functionality of the pen and touch screen on the iPad doesnt give you the full control like a fully fledged desktop app... Because IOS is gimped. Two products that are defined by an OS and the experience but try to do the same thing... screaming to take the best bits and make a new product line.

People get hung up on the 2 in 1 tablet option in comparison to an iPad. I dont see it like that I see it as I can detach the screen and use it in scenarios where having the base isnt necessary. Like if i wanted to edit some images casually on the sofa and use the pen...

The macbook line is super stagnant.

In all honesty what extra use case has the Macbook pro offered since the line was established in 2006? It exactly the same. Nothing has changed apart from spec bumps and movement with similar technology, screens, ports etc. They have become less reliable and Apple have taken more away than added. The things they have added are gimmicks nobody asked for like the TB, then only put it on the high end products which makes adoption even slower as we all know the low end machines are the best sellers. They added the TB as an upsell, but pros spend more for more speed not gimmicks.

To add insult to injury the price has increased significantly. The worst bit is they just arent pro anymore. 3-4 years ago there would have been no question that the Macbook pro was the market gold standard, now its not so clear and its sitting in a haze of really good products some significantly less that offer similar like the Dell XPS and others like the surface that is trying something new at a similar premium price point.

Its interesting that mobile tech review made a video titled "best laptop for photoshop and lightroom" and the macbook pro in any form wasn't highlighted at all.

Simply because there are better products now and apple has sat on its laurels.

I applaud Microsoft for filling the gap and innovating where apple has left it wide open. Competition is good. The surface may not be perfect but they will crack it, they are already impressive but has the problems and bugs of a new product.

The 2006 macbook pro moved me to the mac. The surface is pushing me back. Especially when all my work machines are dell workstations because the 2013 mac pro was a joke. 5 years on there is still no option to the 2010 and 2012 mac pro.

Its a whirlpool effect... one product being missing in the line causes you to move on, being on multi platforms doesn't make much sense and apples direction doesnt fill me with confidence going forward.
Rating: 9 Votes
23 months ago
Much as I'd love for Apple to up their game on the iPad in various ways, a low-cost Surface is effectively an underpowered, tablet-form-factor netbook... welcome back to 2008.

We bought 100 SurfaceBooks for a pilot, deployed 50 to a pilot group, 25 developed minor-to-severe hardware issues within 6 months. MS bought back the remaining 50 new-in-box and the pilot was canceled... Dell was thrilled.
Rating: 8 Votes
23 months ago
1st comment and also surface is the best right now in the market
Rating: 7 Votes

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