Microsoft’s recently announced Surface tablet is one of the most buzz-worthy product announcements in recent history. It is being seen by mobile technology enthusiasts as the first true competition to the iPad in a long time because of one solid reason. Based on Windows 8 – a desktop-class operating system -  tablet that you can use for more than just consuming content, you can create documents in MS Office, make funny cat GIFs in Photoshop, develop the next big thing in Visual Studio etc. etc.

But Microsoft left out two very important details about the Surface: its price and availability. Enthusiasts agree that it’s the Surface’s price that will decide its ultimate fate in the iPad-dominated tablet market.

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Now, a new report from TheNextWeb has emerged which cites a “source close to Microsoft” who claims that the Windows RT-based model of Microsoft’s 10.6” tablet will start at $599 while the Windows 8 Pro-based model will be available at a whopping $999.

The $599 starting price point for Windows RT-based Surface seems pretty  reasonable because of two reasons. First being based on GM Panos Panay’s statement that the Surface would be priced in the same range as other ARM tablets with 32GB/64GB memory. The second reason has been mentioned below.

While I strongly believe that other manufacturers need to put their starting prices below the baseline $499 iPad model – like ASUS did with their moderately successful Transformer series of tablets – $599 for the Surface doesn’t sound too shocking to me.

Microsoft doesn’t exactly have a grip over the supplier industry (as strong a grip as Apple anyway) and pricing their tablet too aggressively will draw fire from OEMs which intend to come up with their own Windows 8-based tablets. Redmond has to maintain a very delicate balance to keep both kinds of customers happy: the average Joe looking for his next tablet and OEMs which will license Windows 8 in an attempt to sell their own tablet to Joe.

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If, however, Microsoft includes the case that transforms into a near-full size multi-touch keyboard with the $599 Surface, it would help make the slightly higher-than-iPad price more easy to digest.

The Windows 8 Pro based Microsoft Surface, with its USB 3.0 port, Full HD display and increased storage options (64GB/128GB + microSDXC), seems grossly over-priced at $999, though. It puts it right in the MacBook Air / ultrabook category of notebooks which, arguably, offer better performance and better content creation options.

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