Microsoft to take on the iPad with 'cheaper Surface range'

Microsoft plans to release a new, cheaper Surface tablet, it is reported.

Available as soon as the second half of 2018, the tablet will allegedly come in at about $400, compared with the business-oriented Surface Pro tablets selling at around $799.

The apparent new line demonstrates Microsoft's bid for a place in the market of budget devices, which Apple currently dominates. While Apple sold about 44 million iPads in the past four quarters and generated $20 billion in revenue, Microsoft's entire Surface hardware business made only $4.4 billion.

Microsoft has made attempts at lower-cost devices in the past, but migrated to the high-end line of Surface Pro tablets when it was unable to generate interest in cheaper machines, resulting in a spectacular $900 million write down for its RT range in 2013. Microsoft's last endeavour was the Surface 3, priced at $499, which it stopped making at the end of 2016.

The tablets in the new line - reported by Bloomberg - offer potential appeal to schools looking to buy cheap technology in bulk. This would also put Microsoft in a position to compete with Apple's new $329/319 iPad model, launched in March of this year.

Redmond's new tablets will reportedly sport a 10in screen and rounded edges similar to an iPad, as well as a kickstand for upright viewing and typing.

The entire line will include features like USB-C connectivity - a charging and syncing standard used in some of the latest smartphones - and connectivity to LTE cellular networks, in addition to the ability to run Windows 10 Pro like all Microsoft devices, Bloomberg said. Storage sizes across the line will vary, however, ranging from 64GB to 128GB.

These new tablets will be 20% lighter than the Surface Pro line, but with four hours less battery (around 8.5 hours in total). Microsoft will also launch cheaper versions of its stylus, mouse and keyboard cover.

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