When the Microsoft Surface Tablets for Windows RT ship this fall, only a select few OEM Partners will be releasing Windows Tablets along side of Microsoft. According to the China Times, Windows RT devices will only initially be available from Asus, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba. Chipset vendors NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm were each allowed to work with at most two OEM partners for the launch. NVIDIA chose Asus and Lenovo, Texas Instruments chose Toshiba, and Qualcomm selected Samsung and HP. HP elected not to develop a Windows RT device. Instead, HP will develop only the Pro version of the Windows Tablet. Thus, Qualcomm may instead work with Dell to release a Windows RT Tablet at launch.
Windows RT Release Date and Price Details
The initial batch of Windows RT devices are all expected to go on sale together. However, only Asus and Samsung have officially announced that their devices will be ready to launch along side of the Microsoft Surface. Windows 8 Pro devices will not ship until 90 days later. I suspect that Microsoft wants only the cheaper version of the new Windows Tablets available during the holiday season.
Currently there is no official word on how much the Windows RT devices will cost. There were some reports that the Microsoft Surface price would start at $1,000. It turned out that this information was not based on anything from Microsoft. Microsoft has however suggested that pricing for Windows RT devices will be comparable to existing ARM devices. I estimate that these new Windows Tablets will price near iPads and higher end Android Tablets.
Windows RT OEM restriction concerns
One interesting thing to note- with Microsoft releasing its own hardware, many have suggested that this will put a strain on Microsoft’s relationship with its OEM Partners. I don’t suspect this will be the case. For one, the OEMs already have the experience and infrastructure to develop devices that should compete well with the new MS Surface hardware. Secondly, OEMs have few options outside of Microsoft. On the tablet front, OEMs could choose Android of course. Considering that the iPad outsells Android tablets 2 to 1, OEMs will likely not put all of their eggs in Android’s basket. On the PC front, OEMs really don’t have a second option to Windows. Linux is not yet ready for prime time and Mac OS is not an option (legally, anyway). Therefore, the OEMs will need to focus whatever frustration they may have into developing a compelling Windows Tablet device that everyone will want to buy.