Microsoft announces Australian Surface 2 pricing

Microsoft has revealed the Australian pricing for its new Surface 2 tablets, coming very close to achieving parity with the US pricing.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Microsoft's launch of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 in New York City has been followed by its announcement of Australian pricing for the devices.

Unveiled on Monday on the Microsoft Australia blog, the pricing sees Microsoft for once come close to maintaining its pricing throughout Australia and the US.

The Surface 2 comes with a 1080p 10.6-inch ClearType full HD display, USB 3.0, an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, a 3.5-megapixel front-facing camera and 5-megapixel rear camera, a weight of around 650g, and a battery life of up to 10 hours when combined with the previously rumoured Power Cover, and will ship with Windows RT 8.1.

It is available in 32GB and 64GB versions; the 32GB model costs AU$529, while the 64GB version is AU$639. Once the exchange rate and GST have been taken into account, the Australian pricing scrapes in just below the US pricing of $449 (before sales tax).

The beefier Surface Pro 2 runs on Windows Pro 8.1, is powered by a fourth-generation Haswell Intel Core i5 processor, and brings a greater battery life of around 75 percent more than its predecessor, the Surface Pro.

In Australia, the Surface Pro 2 costs AU$1,019 for 64GB; AU$1,129 for 128GB; AU$1,469 for 256GB; and AU$2,039 for 512GB. Taking out the 10 percent GST and converting the currencies, the lowest-end model costs $863 in Australia, but $899 before tax in the US, making the device cheaper Down Under. The 512GB version costs $1,799 in the US; in Australia, pre-tax and converted to USD, it costs approximately $1,727.

The pricing of the accessories announced to tie in with the tablets are also close to equivalence, with Australians again getting a good deal.

The Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2, both with proximity-sensing backlighting and a thinner aspect, will cost AU$139.99 ($199.99 pre-tax in the US), and AU$149.99 ($129.99 pre-tax in the US), respectively. With currency conversion and tax subtracted, they are $118 and $127, respectively.

Also announced was the Docking Station for the Surface Pro 2, which provides connectivity for Ethernet and external monitors, and three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. Available in early 2014, the Docking Station will cost AU$229 in Australia — around $195 pre-tax and converted — and $199 before tax in the US.

While both of the Surface tablets are currently Wi-Fi only, Microsoft Surface chief Panos Panay said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on September 23 that a long-term evolution (LTE) version will be coming in early 2014.

"We didn't talk about it today, but Surface 2 will be launching an awesome LTE SKU early next year!"

Purchasing either the Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 will give customers free Skype calls and unlimited Skype Wi-Fi for one year, plus 200GB of free SkyDrive storage for two years.

With the Surface pricing, Microsoft appears to have finally taken into account the report on the Australia tax two months ago by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, which provided 10 recommendations on the issue.

"The committee is of the view that in many instances, these higher costs cannot, even cumulatively, explain the price differences consumers experience in relation to many IT products," the report said.

"Given the evidence presented to the committee of very large price differentials, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these practices amount to international price discrimination to the clear disadvantage of Australian consumers and businesses."

Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe were all forced to attend the IT pricing inquiry hearings in March. Microsoft argued that its local channel partners are responsible for some of its costs, but also stated that if its pricing were so unfair, its products would not sell.

"I have been working for the company for 17 years, and I would say it's the most competitive time for Microsoft that I have ever experienced," Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow said at the time. "So ultimately, our customers have choice, and at the end of the day, if we priced our products too high, then our customers would vote with their wallets and we would see our sales decline."

The Surface devices can be purchased from Microsoft's online store, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, and authorised Microsoft resellers, with pre-orders for both devices being accepted from 10pm AEST on September 24. The tablets will arrive in stores on October 22.

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