Microsoft Surface gets modest Aussie markup


news Global technology giant Microsoft has revealed that its Surface tablet will go on sale on 26 October next week, as its Windows 8 operating system also launches, in three different models and with only a small markup for Australian buyers compared with US prices.

The Surface tablet is Microsoft’s attempt to take on Apple’s dominant iPad tablet, which enjoys a market share in Australia usually estimated at upwards of 80 percent.

In some of its specifications, the Surface is similar to the iPad. It’s a similar size, featuring a 10.6” screen, it weighs about the same at 680g, and like the iPad, it features a powerful mobile processor (NVIDIA’s T30). It comes with a large amount of RAM for a tablet, 2GB, and like the iPad it supports Wi-Fi network access, has on-board storage (32GB or 64GB) and has two cameras – both 720p HD, on the Surface’s front and back. Like the iPad, the Surface also has in-built speakers and sensors such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, microphones and a light sensor.

However, ther’s where the similarities end. Unlike the iPad, the Surface will not support 3G or 4G mobile broadband, meaning users will need to connect it to a Wi-Fi network or share their smartphone’s 3G connecting through tethering to deliver Internet access to it, and although Microsoft has not yet confirmed the Surface’s screen resolution, this is expected to be much lesser than Apple’s high-end iPad ‘Retina’ displays.

But perhaps the main difference between the iPad and the Surface, to a casual user, will be the fact that it runs Microsoft’s radical overhaul of its Windows operating system. The Surface will run a cut-down version of the new Windows 8 operating system, which will also launch globally next week, dubbed Windows RT. Windows 8 obfuscates access to Windows’ traditional desktop operating paradigm, featuring a new user interface formerly dubbed ‘Metro’ and modelled along similar lines to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 dashboard design and the design of its Windows Phone 7 operating system. It is designed to be used with a touchscreen interface, along with more traditional keyboard and mouse control.

In a statement issued early this morning, Microsoft said its Surface tablet would be sold in three models in Australia – a 32GB version priced at $559, a 32GB version bundled with a black Touch Cover (an addition to the Surface which functions as a keyboard and a cover) for $679 and a 64GB version bundled with a black Touch cover priced at $789. All prices include GST. The same models will sell for US$499, US$599 and US$699 in the US, meaning that the Australian prices represent a modest markup on the US prices for the same models.

Microsoft said that a variety of accessories would also be available, including Touch Covers in five vibrant colours — black, white, magenta, cyan and red — priced at $139.99 “so customers can express their personal style”. “Customers will also have the option to purchase a Type Cover in black for $149.99,” Microsoft said, “which adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.”

The Surface will be available for purchase in Australia through the company’s website, and it will come with the Windows RT version of Windows 8, which includes a version of Microsoft Office customised for the Surgave.

So far, there has been little evidence of consumer interest in the Surface in Australia apart from in the early adopter segment. However, in the enterprise, chief information officers have indicated their interest in adopting the device for corporate work, according to a poll ZDNet Australia conducted of Australian chief information officers in July.

At the moment conventional thinking in the IT industry appears to be dominantly along the lines that Windows 8 will be largely ignored by large enterprises and consumers, apart from in the tablet area, where many people expect it to have a chance at displacing the iPad in enterprises, due to the iPad’s historically (if not currently) poor manageability and the fact that the laptop/tablet category seems logically designed to converge in the long-term.

Personally, I’m on the fence about whether the Surface – and Windows 8 in general – will succeed and if so, when. As I’ve previously written, in order to displace the iPad, which most people seem pretty happy with, Microsoft and its partners need to do something actually better than Apple is doing. But with Apple’s lead in hardware, software, third-party developer mobile ecosystem and market share, plus the plethora of enterprise manageability tools which have popped up to manage it in large organisations, this seems like a pretty tough ask. Pretty much the only advantages Microsoft appears to have at this point are the fact that Apple has not yet converged the tablet and laptop categories – so maybe Microsoft can – and the fact that Microsoft currently dominates the enterprise, an area which Apple has always treated as a secondary priority. Can the Surface find its place in this dichotomy?

… my gut says ‘not just yet’, but I’m certainly looking forward to reviewing one.

I won’t be buying one myself just yet, but I remain open to being convinced by the Microsoft machine that it can pull this off. After all, it was only a few years ago that Microsoft was struggling to convince people like me that its entrance into the video gaming console scene would pay off. And it was only a few years later that Microsoft was struggling to convince people like me that its new mobile phone operating system (Windows 7) would go anywhere. The same in databases. The same in virtualisation. The same in servers (think about its decade-long battle with Unix/Linux). The same in CRM, business intelligence, identity. And the list goes on.

You have only look at Microsoft’s current product line to know that Redmond can sometimes take a while to get something right … but that it does have a degree of persistence that few other companies have. This is the thing I love about Microsoft. It never gives up.

Image credit: Microsoft


  1. > Microsoft has not yet confirmed the Surface’s screen resolution

    The Surface RT has a resolution of 1366×768
    The Surface Pro has a resolution of 1920×1080


    Personally, I have no interest in the Surface RT, but am keenly awaiting the Surface Pro, as I hope the Surface Pro can replace both my iPad and my laptop.
    Currently whenever I travel I take an iPad with me for entertainment/ebooks/browsing etc, but still have to take a Windows laptop in case I need to do real work.

      • Waiting for the Pro version before I make the ‘Surface or Ultrabook?’ decision, but I’ll be going into JB (or wherever) to try it out as soon as I can.

    • I agree, totally waiting for the Pro.

      Any excuse to toss my Ultrabook, the better.

      As much as I love Samsung’s Series 9, its a pain in the ass. I’d rather have the surface which is modestly more compact, works perfectly with my Lumia 920 and will sync seamlessly with my PC.

      Unfortunately seamless syncing is just something both Android and iOS just cant do as well as Windows.

      Call me a fanboi or whatever but I’m really warming to the idea of WP8 + Windows8 over Android on my S3.

      • I agree 100%. Having a desktop, tablet and mobile all working in perfect harmony? That would be bliss. The combination of Lumia 920, Surface Pro and my PC using Windows 7 seems like an ideal one to me.

        I would also think that this sort of thing would have to be attractive to businesses. Once they have put down their iToys for a moment, and realised that there can be real productivity barriers when things don’t sync up nicely, then it should be a no-brainer to start using the Surface Pro and WM8 in the workplace too.

    • Personally I don’t see the point of the Surface Pro and in fact the surface design when used as a laptop. You have to use it on a flat surface. Its pretty awesome looking and designed really well but for me I’ll stick to one of the tablets that come with a dock.

      I’m pretty much set on getting an ASUS tablet with x86 processor and keyboard dock. Something like this would really be able to replace both ultrabook and tablet: if only they would release one.

      • > Something like this would really be able to replace both ultrabook and tablet

        That Asus *is* an ultrabook. It just has a removeable screen.
        Also, it’s screen sizes of 11.6″, 13″ and 14″ are too big to be useable as a tablet (in my opinion).

        I agree that this would be much easier to use on your lap / without something solid to rest on, though. That’s a benefit for Ultrabooks over Surface for me, but I’m still weighing up pros and cons ;)

        • 11.6″ is fine. Its almost the same width as the iPad but longer and its great for laptop use. Any smaller and its annoying as a laptop (thats how I feel anyway)

          Ah well, I won’t be buying one until early next year anyway so lots of time to try them out and see whats best :)

  2. I agree with the last comment. Microsoft never gives up. That’s a good thing. It’s vital for progress for big corporations being prepared to keep having a crack at things even if they fail. Not only is it vital for consumers but also for companies. Any company that pulls back into its shell for too long to try to protect its core revenue base eventually dies. Might take decades for the slow decline to complete, but a slow death is still death. Nokia and Kodak come to mind. Apple would be wise to take note. Litigation is a poor substitute for innovation.

  3. I’m pretty sure us Aussies get 2 years warranty compared to United States’ one as well

  4. Still not impressed with that mark-up.

    Based on today’s exchange rate of $1.0313 USD to $1.00 AUD, the direct price conversion would be AU$483.86. Australians are being charged a total of AU$559, or US$576.50, a markup of US$77.50 or 15.5%.

    My sister is in the US on release date and will hopefully be able to grab me one.

    • I quickly scrambled through price this morning. Average cost of shipping here would be around $60 bucks (incl of insurance).

      I dont trust customs so insurance is a must – other things I’ve bought overseas that are the latest and greatest and had shipped here or brought through customs were opened, checked and in two cases; used. I’ve even got one photo of the chap that used my Galaxy Tab 10.1 when it launched. Taken via the front camera’s security I set up.

      The $60 bucks difference would put it in pretty close proximity of price to the US.

    • You’re forgetting GST. When you factor in the longer warranty, the cost to ship it out here, and the volatility of our currency, the price is fine.

      • and the american pricing doens’t include their local state taxes as well. So for 2 years local warranty, its not so bad at all.

  5. Just read this on twitter from @microsurface ‘Microsoft Surface RT 32GB Model Sells Out on Day One”

  6. …which includes a version of Microsoft Office customised for the *Surgave* <- ?!?

  7. Being able to run windows applications on a tablet gives it an instant leg up over the iPad in my opinion. Then again, I don’t have a tablet currently so I’m not locked into a particular platform yet.

  8. “…version of Microsoft Office customised for the Surgave” was meant to be “…for the Surface”, I guess. Although, even that is incorrect, in two ways — no apps will be customized for the Surface; they will be re-written for Windows 8/Windows Store (formerly known as ‘Metro’). ;)

    Windows Store apps will run on any Windows 8 tablet or PC, not just Microsoft Surface.

  9. might be time to update my Snow Leopard AcerOne hackintosh.
    will be waiting for a surface hackintosh

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