Would You Buy a Windows Tablet if It Cost Just $199?

By Anne Marie D. Lee, dealnews contributor

Secrecy isn't a bad thing when it comes to creating hype for new products. Apple knows this marketing method all too well: historical unveilings now the stuff of Steve Jobs lore. Its secrecy generates excitement and builds suspense and interest in its brand and products.

And who better to take cues from than Apple? Microsoft was clearly borrowing from Apple's playbook when it chose to introduce its new family of Microsoft Surface tablets at a dramatic press event. The room full of blog-ready press members — as well as the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with whom Microsoft has longstanding partnerships sat ready and waiting.

Microsoft's secrecy leading up to the event also encouraged quite a few rumors. And we're inclined to believe that based on a few of them, the latest Windows tablet is a doozy for deal-minded shoppers: that the lower-end Surface RT could debut at a startlingly low price of $199 when it's released on October 26. The source of the rumor comes from an "insider tip" given to Engadget, and, understandably, most media sources are astonished by — and a bit skeptical of — the possibility of a sub-$200 Windows 8 slate.

Does a $199 Price Point Put the Surface in Fire and Nexus Territory?

Back when the Surface was first announced in 32GB and 64GB incarnations, the only hint we had for a price point was from company statements that the Surface RT would be "priced to competitive rates with ARM tablets." Many sources thus speculated that it would sell in the $500 range, and comparisons were made to Apple's most barebones iPad 2 and MacBook Air. Should Engadget's inside source speak the truth though, and the Surface RT actually debuts at $199, it will join Amazon and Google in the $200 market.

But comparisons between Microsoft's Surface RT, the Kindle Fire, and Nexus 7 don't make a whole lot of sense because the Windows slate would provide a far greater value at this price point. From both Amazon and Google, $199 only buys you 8GB worth of storage and a 7" screen. Moreover, the current Kindle Fire is basically a souped-up eReader (although that's likely to change with an anticipated update) with a heavily modified OS.

Meanwhile, the Nexus 7 does have strong features, such as a front-facing camera, NFC technology, and a quad-core Tetra 3 processor, but it still falls short of the level of hardware being offered by the Surface RT. Most online sources are pretty confident that, in spite of a sensationally low rumored price, Microsoft's Surface RT — with its 32GB or 64GB of storage, 10.8" screen, twin-facing cameras, ClearType HD display, and new Windows OS with Microsoft Office — is designed to actually compete with the iPad.

Attempting to Compete with the All-Mighty iPad

It would seem that Microsoft wants to draw the comparison with its Surface to the iPad; just a few months ago, CEO Steve Ballmer spoke openly and confidently of his company's manifesto to leave no space uncovered to Apple. Apple doesn't seem too concerned though, as Tim Cook bluntly dismissed the company's focus on creating laptop-tablet hybrids.

Regardless, it'll take more than bombastic press for Microsoft's Surface to be taken as a serious iPad competitor; and while beating Cupertino on price is one way to go about it, there are many tech insiders who are skeptical about the likelihood of a $199 Surface RT come October. And if that doesn't manifest, these rumors could be pretty damaging if consumers have long prepared for something more affordable.

Do you believe the Surface RT might actually debut at the stunningly low price of $199? If so, will you be more likely to buy it? Can the Surface RT compete with the iPad? Let us know what you think.

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just don't like apple products
Why is every gadget released compared to Apple products as if they still reign supreme?  It has been a while since Apple has truly bested their competition.  Don't you remember your mother saying "Just because everyone else is doing it, that doesn't make it right"?  So I would say "Just because everyone else is buying iPad's, that doesn't make them the best".  I'm glad that Microsoft is pushing hard in this market, they (now) make great products.  Competition is good! and there is absolutely no reason other companies shouldn't be able to take market share away from Apple.
It would be so very smart of msft to use the Surface as a loss leader.  It has a huge hoard of cash, and its brand is being threatened by smart phone and ipads. 
Even if the Surface is more than $199, I'd still buy it: 1/ Windows, 2/Physical keyboard, duh!
I can't say I would ever purchase an Windows tablet, i mean you really get what you pay for, especially these days. Theres no way the Windows tablet could offer much at $199.99. Sounds like a cheap piece of crap to me.

It would in no way compete with the iPad, the only competition would be the company's who use windows for their products and android tablets.
It's hard to make a decision before knowing there will be apps for the device. If it has good apps available, I think this would be a nice device.
Microsoft is one of the companies, along with ATT and Time-Warner, that I am loathe to give electronics money to. They will really have to have a far superior product at an astonishing price with excellent unaccented support, and unhackable software. I and the market demand nothing less anymore.
Microsoft may also be taking into consideration that the HP tablet had brisk sales after the price dropped to $199 when it was discontinued.  Microsoft may have determined based on the HP tablet, Amazon Fire etc. that $199 is a significant price point for consumers.