Price, not screen size, will determine whether Microsoft's Surface Mini sinks or swims

Price, not screen size, will determine whether Microsoft's Surface Mini sinks or swims

Summary: Buyers are unlikely to care about the odd half inch of screen size here or there. These days, only one thing matters: Price.


There are lots of rumors and speculation circulating today that Microsoft has a smaller variant of the Surface — let's call it the Surface Mini until further notice — in the pipeline, and there's been a lot of focus on what screen size this mythical device will have. But it's not screen size that will determine whether the Surface Mini sinks or swims.

(Image: Microsoft)

The general chit-chat hints that the Surface Mini will have a screen size of between 7.5 and 8 inches, putting it in the same ball park as Apple's iPad mini, and a smidgen bigger than Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD.

In other words, the Surface Mini has a screen size that's roughly the same as all other "mini" tablets. And as far as consumers are concerned, it's a mini tablet, and people aren't going to care about the odd half inch here or there.

It's going to come down to one thing and one thing alone: Price.

Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet — the version that runs the x86 version of Windows — costs between $899 and $999, depending on how much onboard storage is required. Compare this to the Surface — powered by Windows RT — which costs between $499 and $699, again depending on how much storage is needed. The optional keyboard adds another $120 or $130 to the price tag, depending on which keyboard is required.

The word is that the Surface Mini will land with a price tag in the region of $399. Compare this to the iPad mini, which starts at $329, and the Kindle Fire HD, which comes in at an incredibly low $199.

At a time when consumers are price sensitive, being the priciest "mini" tablet — especially while at the same time being the new kid on the block — is not going to help Microsoft gain traction with the new slab. While there's no way for Microsoft to compete with Amazon when it comes to pricing — the Kindle Fire HD tablets are being sold at cost to cost — the Surface Mini needs to be competing directly with Apple in terms of price, and at $399, it won't be.

Ideally, I would like to see the Surface Mini come in at the more disruptive $299. At this price, not only does it compete effectively against the iPad, at the same time it also puts pressure on Amazon at the lower end.

Bear in mind that these are rumors. However, Microsoft does seem to be pricing the Surface and Surface Pro tablets at the high end, so a $399 price tag is not far-fetched.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8

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  • Tablet Market Share

    If MS wants its Windows 8 /RT OS to be dominent in the tablet market, then they should make feasilbe for OEM's to sell those tablets as low $149 to $199.
    • Did someone slip something into your coffee this morning?

      You are admitting that MS tablets are a HUGE "fail" and that MS has to give away the OS/SW and even subsidize the HW to make MS tablets a success.

      Wow, quite an admission from a MS shill. I think I will frame your post and hang it on my office wall.

      Heck, at those prices, if they could be rooted and run a better OS, even I might buy one.

      It is possible that the trust busters might have a problem with such an approach by MS, but it would certainly be an interesting development.
      • Did Bill Gates take a dump in your coffee or something?

        I don't quite understand your irrational hate towards Microsoft.
        • Not exactly eloquent, but

          I do not hate MS. I use their SW. All the computers in the family run W7.

          I do object to some of their past conduct however. I do not want MS (at least under Ballmer) to EVER become as powerful in mobile as they have been on the desktop. It is simply a very unhealthy situation. It led to considerable abuse.

          If the "better OS" comment stuck in your throat, most posters here have by now figured out that yanking on a MS shill's leash is one of my favorite pastimes.

          I did take offense (not personal) to your unnecessarily graphic title. Such language is better suited for a high school bathroom.

          As for Bill G, I respect his accomplishments at MS and really admire his philanthropic work since stepping down. He is a truly great American and history will remember him for a long time.
          • Why do you let your views for a person dictate the market?

            So Ballmer is an idiot, but if Microsoft (or anyone) makes a better product and it takes the market by storm then good for us the consumers.

            It is refreshing to see Microsoft have competition. Wishing them to fail, because you don't like the CEO seems to miss the point. Especially if it causes you to lash out at other users in a message forum over it.
          • Missing the point(s)

            I stated that MS's dominance led to many abuses and I do not think that is good for the market/consumers. I do not wish to see them repeated in the mobile sector. I also would like to see them end on the desktop. That means reducing MS's influence/power in their major markets sectors. That is simply a prudent stand for the benefit of the consumers and society in general. Why that apparently troubles you is a mystery to me.

            As for your suggestion that I "lash out at other users in a message forum over it", my "lashing out" posts are generally reserved for the obvious MS shills here, who are likely MS "plants" to promote its business and influence the public debate in MS's favor. If you feel those MS shills deserve your respect, be my guest. I will continue to treat them with the contempt I feel for them, as apparently do many others here.

            If my contempt at times has been somewhat misdirected, I offer my most sincere apology to the individuals affected.
          • It remains an interesting concept

            These "MS/Apple or Google" Shills. It is down right outrageous and naiveto actually believe such a concept is being employed by any company on this site (or most others for that matter).

            Do you actually believe Microsoft (or others) are wasting money to pay these shills to steer a discussion on a site that is being read by a tiny tiny number of people and do you actually think it would make one bit of difference in the grand scheme of things ?

            Of course not, it is an utter silly concept that doesn't exist.
          • Not exactly eloquent...

            Wow! A really good response; moving even. But then you should hope that MS would gain more traction in the mobile field in order to keep up the philanthropy, if nothing else.
          • Microsoft does not engage in philanthropy directly

            Bill Gates does, but his Microsoft holdings are no longer a significant share of his wealth. He began divesting in 1984 and now holds barely more interest in Microsoft than Steve Ballmer, despite that over these years he's been gifted back almost the entire company. He sells the shares and they give them back. Ballmer buys shares to prop up the price, and uses them for executive incentives. Do the math. The purpose of Microsoft isn't to make software: it's to funnel money into Bill Gates' philanthropy at this point.

            At a recent shareholder meeting some fool suggested Bill gift back his shares to the company to prop up their stock price. I can't imagine how much restraint it took to not laugh out loud.
          • Objecting to their past conduct???

            Like, maybe 15 years or so ago in quite another business context?

            Get your brain in gear. Relax. Breath deeply, and then exhale slowly. Then, repeat.

            Maybe that might help you to see things as they are today in the IT industry. (But, maybe not!)
            Ian Easson
          • To this very day

            Microsoft misconduct is still going on every day and in every way that it ever was. They're trying to paint a nice face on it now, be more subtle about it, but it is as ugly today as it was in 1995. There is no "kinder, gentler Microsoft."

            It takes a decade though before the court documents reveal today's misdeeds.
      • HK

        Heaven knows OwlllllNet is among the most tedious of contributors to these talk backs, but, he or she did not admit the things you say he or she did.

        It was his or her suggestion of a tactical choice for Microsoft to make so its operating system could dominate the sector. Still unsurprisingly bereft of depth and insight and seemingly unconcerned that Microsoft has priced its os so it can sell its devices at a competitive price, because — get ready for the blazingly obvious — Microsoft makes more profit per all devices sold by selling the devices. Useless comments, but not in any way an admission that a particular os or product has failed in a market sector.
        • The purpose of your post is not etirely clear to me.

          My post was certainly a reasonable inference from what Owlllllnet posted.

          Given Owlllllnet's posting history here, having a bit of fun at his/her expense is entirely reasonable and justified in my view.

          I try to respect those who respects others here. Owlllllnet is not one of them and that choice is his/hers. In my world, acts and choices have consequences.
      • DT.Long, AKA Bitter Boy.

        There is something wrong with you to that that upset over a post about Microsoft. It's not like he was talking about your wife or mother. But your level of anger is on par with somebody who did experience that. It's just not normal man, you need help.
    • MS has already made it very feasible for oems to

      price windows tablets in that price range. And on top of that they made a conscious decision not to compete with them in that price range even though they could still make a profit there. This is fertile ground for the first OEM to do it right.
      Johnny Vegas
      • OEMs

        If Windows OEMs were doing well, we would know. Reports from the field vary from "dire" to "Help me!" to no report (gone fishin').
  • Price

    Price will be the determining element, as it will be competing with others in the expensive toy arena. It can hardly be considered as any kind of serious content creation (office, business, or elswhere) device.
    • I tried a Lenovo Yoga 11”

      With the Tegra chip and Windows RT (obviously), I can say that it was fantastic as far as performance is concerned. And I should mention it was set at clearance price (almost 40% discount). But Windows RT? On a mini laptop wanabee?

      Although I would say it was a solid device, I see no reason to buy one. If I wanted Office on a tablet Hybrid I would have bought a Surface Pro. Then again if I was a heavy Office user I would find an ultrabook and no touch screen more appropriate for this job. And I also think that most people that are in the market for a tablet do not really care about Office anyway.

      I doubt if price alone can save this weird offerings from Microsoft. They look pretty (some of them) but they are still not a clear tablet or laptop or desktop replacements. They always seem to be targeting somewhere in between and not what the market really wants.
  • But it has that gorgeous MS Office on-board ... sigh

    I think that is MSs main concept & stance behind SurfaceRT. Use MS Office as vindication why the price is beyond the average price point of that breed. Unfortunately that makes a poor excuse since the majority of non-pro users apparently is not in dire need of MS Office.
  • I have to respectfully disagree...

    Surface Pro 128GB = $999 (without keyboard)
    iPad Wifi 128GB = $799 (without keyboard, without a mxsd 64GB storage expansion slot, without a USB port, without the ability to run any desktop program you can run with a desktop/laptop)

    If you don't need those "withouts", the iPad is probably a decent deal. But if you do, the iPad is incredibly expensive for what it is, with the Surface Pro being a relative bargain.

    Also consider that Microsoft is focusing on the premium market. Acer et al will be all too happy to provide the $199 plastic tablets that rival the cheap construction of most current Android tablets.