Windows 8 RT tablets, at $500 to $700, could fail due to too-high price

Microsoft is hoping that Windows 8 RT will be its tablet savior, but the pricetag for Windows 8 RT tablets may be so high that they'll never get a chance to compete. So warns an IDC analyst.

IDC analyst Tom Mainelli told Computerworld:

"My biggest concern is that Windows RT tablets could be many times more expensive than the Amazon Fire price of $200 -- even something as high as $599 and above, which is a concern for their viability."

At that price, they'll be above the cost of many iPad models, and given the iPad's dominance, it's not likely that many people will buy a Windows 8 RT tablet rather than the iPad at a similar price. In addition, Windows 8 tablets on Intel-compatible chips would undercut RT prices as well.

Mainelli wasn't pulling his numbers out of a hat; he spoke with component suppliers and original design manufacturers to do research. Part of the cost is attributable to high Windows 8 licensing fees, but most of it is due to the high-end requirements for the tablet. He said:

"We are getting very few details, but the Windows 8 touch-based interface has strict specification requirements around touch, which means you can't go low end."

Not everyone agrees with Mainelli's price estimate. Several other analysts told Computerworld that Windows RT tablets could sell for between $300 to $499.

Even aside from price, though, some analysts warn that unless Windows 8 RT tablets are substantially better than iPads, they won't succeed. Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research said:

"The Windows RT OS itself is fine, but the tablet war is so heavily skewed toward Apple right now that Microsoft would have to come up with something so substantially better. And that's hard for me to see."

I have to agree with Kerravala. The iPad is so dominant Microsoft has to beat it dramatically in some way, either on features or price. Windows 8, based on the Release Preview, is a very good, very solid operating system, especially for tablets, but I don't see it being dramatically better than iPads. That means that Windows 8 RT tablets need to compete on price. And if they can't do that, it's hard to know how they'll gain substantial market share.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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