Redmond, Wash. • Microsoft's first tablet computer, the Surface, will start at $499 when it goes on sale Oct. 26.
The price matches that of Apple Inc.'s iPad, the most popular tablet computer, but the base model of the Surface has twice as much storage memory, 32 gigabytes. The screen is also slightly larger. In the past few months, Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have undermined Apple with 7-inch-screen tablets using the Android system. The cheapest goes for $159, which barely covers manufacturing costs.
The signature hardware feature of the Surface, a cover that doubles as a keyboard, will cost another $100, Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday. A step-up model for $699 has twice the memory, 64 GB, and includes a cover.
The launch of the Surface is an unusual move for Microsoft, which usually sells software to computer makers instead of making computers itself. It coincides with the launch of Windows 8, a version of the operating system that's designed to work better on touch-screen computers and tablets.
Microsoft is becoming a genuine "frenemy" part friend, part enemy to its longtime manufacturing partners.
Since its founding 37 years ago, the company has had a mutual understanding with makers of computer hardware. Microsoft creates software, and companies such as Dell, HP, Acer and Lenovo pay Microsoft a licensing fee to place the Windows operating system on the desktop PCs, notebooks and other gadgets they market to consumers.
Now, Microsoft is complicating the cozy relationship by making and marketing its own tablet computer.
Microsoft will be selling the tablet in its own stores in the U.S. and Canada and online in those countries, plus Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and the U.K.
The Touch Cover has a working, printed keyboard on its inside surface, but the "keys" don't move when pushed. Microsoft will sell a separate Type Cover with keys that move for $130.
The first version of the Surface doesn't have a regular Intel-style PC processor and won't run regular PC software, but it does include a version of the Office suite. Microsoft plans to release another version of the Surface some months later with a more traditional processor and the ability to run regular Windows programs.