Four months ago, Microsoft shocked the tech world by announcing its own Windows tablets, known as Surface. These tablets are unlike anything other manufacturers have shown so far, with integrated kickstands and magnetized screen covers that double as ultrathin keyboards.
Since the announcement, however, Microsoft has been less than forthcoming about some key Surface details, such as exact pricing, display resolution, and what type of battery life to expect.
On the pricing front, the company did say that the Windows RT version of Surface would have a price comparable to that of other tablets, while the Windows 8 Pro version would cost about the same as Ultrabooks. So that's the official word. As far as the unofficial word, at least one estimate for the full bill-of-materials cost suggests that Surface RT's actual cost is a little over $300, while Surface Pro could cost as much as $640 to build. From there, you could hazard a guess at the final retail pricing, but no one knows how much margin Microsoft wants to make on its first in-house tablet adventure.
Adding to the mystery is a rumor, reported by Engadget, that Microsoft will sell the Surface RT for just $200. Microsoft may reach that price by bundling a subscription service, such as the new Office software, as a subsidy. And as far as display specs go, Microsoft has said that the RT version will have an "HD display," while the Pro version will have a "full HD display"but those labels are just marketing terms that don't correlate to standard resolution specs. Conventional wisdom suggests that the RT version will be 1366 by 768 pixels, and that the Pro version will be 1920 by 1080, but who really knows?
The RT version of Surface is slated to launch on October 26, right alongside Windows 8, so these mysteries can't last forever. Still, Surface is a highly anticipated product, and the sooner Microsoft can answer questions, the less anxious we tech enthusiasts will be.
How will Microsoft explain the difference between Windows 8 and RT to consumers?
Techies who have followed the development of Windows 8 and Windows RT know the difference by now. The former will run on x86-based processors and will support legacy software, while the latter will run on ARM-based chips, which won't support legacy software but are likely to foster cheaper, slimmer, and lighter devices.
The challenge for Microsoft's marketing team will be to communicate this difference clearly to the average consumer, who doesn't care about processor architecture and just wants everything to work. At the moment, it's unclear how Microsoft will define Windows 8 versus Windows RT for the layperson.