Microsoft today briefly posted prices of $499 to $699 for its forthcoming Windows RT-based Surface tablet, but then pulled the listings from its online store.
According to the Microsoft Store, the "Surface with Windows RT" -- apparently the official name for what most have been shortening to "Surface RT" -- will start at $499 for a 32GB configuration that lacks the Touch Cover with an embedded keyboard that Microsoft has aggressively touted, including in television ads that kicked off Monday night. The tablet also comes in a 32GB model with the Touch Cover for $599 and in a 64GB configuration with a cover for $699.
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"If true, this is aggressive and right where it needs to be priced," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
Touch Covers will be available separately for $120, and the Type Cover, a slightly thicker keyboard with key travel more like that of a lightweight notebook, will cost $130.
All will be available for preorder, with delivery by Oct. 26, the official launch date of Windows 8, Windows RT, the Surface, and PCs and tablets from Microsoft's hardware partners.
Although the preorder page disappeared from the Microsoft Store, Harry McCracken, the technology columnist for Time magazine, confirmed the prices in a story on Time's website. According to McCracken, a small group of journalists were briefed Monday by Microsoft at the company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters.
When asked what happened to the preorder page, a Microsoft Store sales representative early today said, "I don't have additional details to share at this time."
Microsoft has been coy about pricing for the Surface, both the version that launches next week, and one slated to ship in late January powered by Windows 8 Pro. That led to much speculation, including talk of prices as low as $199.
Earlier, this month, Sameer Singh, founder of Tech-Thought, pegged the starting price of the Surface with Windows RT at between $399 and $499, basing his projection on a workup of a bill of materials, or BOM, that accounted for Microsoft's materials and manufacturing costs.
The starting price of the Surface with Windows RT is, perhaps not coincidentally, the same as that for the least-expensive iPad. Apple sells the iPad at $499 for a 16GB model, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. It also still sells 2011's iPad 2 for $399 (16GB).
While the starting-price iPad boasts just 16GB of storage space -- half that of the entry-level Surface -- Apple's tablet is backed by a much larger app ecosystem. To complicate matters, Apple is expected to debut a smaller, 7.85-inch iPad next week.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com. See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com. Read more about tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.