Microsoft's Apple iPad beater? $400 Surface tablet backed up by FCC filings

New FCC filings line up with reports of Microsoft's plans for a cheaper and smaller Surface tablet.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: What makes Microsoft's Surface devices special?

New electronic device filings with the FCC line up with reports earlier this year that Microsoft is planning to launch a cheaper Surface tablet.

Reports in May said Microsoft is aiming to release new Surface tablets for $400 in the second half of 2018, which was seen as its response to Apple's $329 iPad for the education market.

The new Surface devices were said to have an Intel Core m processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. They'd cost half as much as the higher-end Surface Pro.

Details in the filings, spotted by WinFuture, suggest the reports may be on the mark. The filings don't reveal specifications or drawings, but they confirm the device has driver firmware for a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module, which suggests this tablet has an Intel CPU, since the module would probably be integrated with the CPU if it were an ARM-based Qualcomm system on chip.

There's no description of differences to an existing model, meaning this is not an updated Surface Pro but a new tablet.

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The filings also outline that this Surface model will have a 24-watt power supply compared with the latest Surface Pro's 36-watt power supply, which back up reports of this being a smaller device.

Bloomberg's report on the $400 Surface tablets said they will have 10-inch screens, which is about the same as the iPad and smaller than the Surface Pro's 12-inch display. They are also said to have rounded edges like the iPad and come with a USB-C port for charging and data transfer.

The new device will reportedly have the Surface Pro's kickstand and be 20 percent lighter, but won't match the Pro's 13.5-hour battery life.

To keep costs low, the new models won't include Microsoft's keyboard cover. However, Microsoft is said to have been making cheaper versions of the keyboard cover, stylus and mouse to go with the new device. Microsoft is also reportedly preparing LTE options for the new tablet.

Microsoft has had numerous attempts at cracking the low-end tablet market, including the discontinued Surface 3, and before that Surface RT devices, which landed it with a $900m write-down.

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