Earlier this summer Microsoft did the somewhat unexpected and announced first party Windows RT and Windows 8 tablet hardware under the Surface brand. Microsoft wanted to have flagship devices that could embody what Windows RT and Windows 8 were about, and rather than work with a single OEM to deliver that Microsoft took matters into its own hands. Surface for Windows RT is a 10.6-inch NVIDIA Tegra 3 based tablet, while the 10.6-inch Surface for Windows 8 Pro will feature an Intel Ivy Bridge processor. Surface RT is launching alongside Windows 8 on October 26, while Surface Pro will follow approximately three months later.

Other than an intense focus on build quality, one of the stand out features of the Surface tablets is the first party covers that integrate very thin keyboards/trackpads. The end result is something that promises to have all of the elegance of Apple’s Smart Covers with the functionality of ASUS’ Transformer dock. The touch cover is only 3.2mm thick and features a pressure sensitive keyboard, while the 5.5mm type cover features a traditional, shallow depth keyboard. Microsoft’s goal with both of these covers is to bring productivity to its Surface tablets.

All of these details thus far were announced at Microsoft’s special event in June. What’s new today are pricing and availability details. Surface RT will be available starting at $499 for the 32GB model (integrated eMMC) preloaded with Office 2013 Home & Student Edition preview. For another $100 you can get a special Surface RT bundle that includes a black Touch Cover. Colored touch covers are available separately for $119 (black, white, cyan, magenta and red). The Type Cover is available separately, in black only, for $129. Both types of covers are powered by the Surface unit itself.

For $699 Microsoft is offering a 64GB Surface RT with a bundled black Touch Cover. There is no 64GB SKU without a Touch Cover. All Surface RT tablets come preloaded with Office 2013 Home & Student Edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The Office 2013 preload is of the current preview build of the software with a free upgrade to final software when it’s available.

The Surface RT tablet bundles will only be available for sale through Microsoft.com and Microsoft Stores. Other online e-tailers and brick and mortar retailers will not be carrying Surface. Although Microsoft’s reasoning behind the decision to sell direct only isn’t public, it likely has to do with cutting out retailer margins from the final device price. There’s also the benefit of controlling the buying experience. Apple has done this for years with its products, so it’s no surprise to see Microsoft doing the same. Going forward we may see even more PC OEMs opt for the online or Microsoft store only policy for sales unless traditional retailers adjust their demands for margins.

Surface RT tablets will be available on October 26th, with preorders starting today at surface.com at 9AM Pacific. Surface will be available in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, the UK, China and Hong Kong.

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  • dagamer34 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    The Surface RT has a microSD card slot and the Surface Pro has a microSDXC card slot so... yeah. Reply
  • faizoff - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I was hoping the RT would start around $300-400 as well. I'm really interested in the Pro edition and if the 64GB version starts at $700 I might strongly consider it. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    The 64GB Surface RT costs $700, so I'm doubtful that the 64GB x86 version will cost that amount. Reply
  • karasaj - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Honestly seems like they missed their price point by 50-100$... would have been amazing starting at 399$. Reply
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I'm not surprised by the $500, but I am surprised that the 64gb is $200 more. That's disappointing. Was hoping it would be 599 not 699.

    Anyways, I'm tempted to wait till haswell and tegra 4
    Reply
  • CoNemesis - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    It's not $200 more. It's $100 more...

    $499 is 32gb RT with no keyboard
    $599 is 32gb RT with a keyboard
    $699 is 64gb RT with a keyboard

    true, you cannot skip the keyboard on the 64gb model at this time, but the 64gb model should be compared to the $599 32gb keyboard model.
    Reply
  • faizoff - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Yea I read that after I posted my comment. So most likely the initial pro version will start around $800 or so. They might even wait and see how the RT version does to attach a main price. Reply
  • ricardoduarte - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I think the pricing of this just shows that the real ipad contenders are the ultrabook/tablet hybrids. Surface price it is far too high for the price, i would rather spend another $200 and get a ThinkPad Twist.

    I wonder if there is any cross compiler for windows RT to pro (to increase the number of apps quickly) in the works that would make sence of this pricing line, or a way to simplify the integration of apps to these RT tablets.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    All RT apps run on Win8 if the developer chooses to. And porting them to WinPhone 8 is supposed to be very easy. That is the real strength of Microsoft's approach. Imagine having an iPad app that also runs on OS X with zero code changes.

    If sales are good this season, devs are going to jump all over Windows 8 and the store will fill up fast.
    Reply
  • ricardoduarte - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I will look into it, not a .net dev myself. But if you say is right it is infact a very good reason to stick with windows 8, but for me only the PRO version, as I need full office and dev tools on it to be useful. Reply

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