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Surface Pro tipped to fail like the BlackBerry Playbook

£800 price strategy baffles analysts and industry watchers.

Surface Pro

Microsoft's Surface Pro pricing strategy is likely to mean the device will have a similar fate as BlackBerry's maligned Playbook tablet.

The software giant confirmed earlier today the Surface Pro will be available to buy in the UK from 23 May, with the 64GB model setting buyers back 719, while the 128GB version will cost 799.

The device will be available to buy directly from Microsoft online or via a select group of still-to-be confirmed retailers, as part of the product's consumer launch.

The Surface Pro's relatively high pricing has raised a few eyebrows within the industry, but the company has defended the move claiming it offers tablet buyers the same experience as using a "full-sized" PC.

Speaking to IT Pro, Ian Moulster, product manager at Microsoft, explained: "If you're looking for a full PC that can do all the things that a full PC can do but can also act as a tablet, that's the Surface Pro.

"If you're comparing it [to other PCs], you would have to compare it to the Ultrabook-type devices that are out there," he said.

To back this up, Moulster said the Surface Pro runs the full version of Windows 8, is powered by a third generation Intel Core i5 processor, boasts 4GB of RAM and a micro SD slot that can be used to boost its internal storage.

However, Jeremy Davies, CEO and co-founder of market watcher Context, said the pricing strategy could cost Microsoft sales in the long run.

"It [has echoes of the] BlackBerry Playbook, which tried to trade off the company's good name, like Microsoft is here, but it was launched at a price that was stupid," Davies told IT Pro.

"In the end they had millions of the damn things flying around and the only way they could get rid of them was to drop the price substantially," he added.

Pricing it upIt's not the first time Microsoft's Surface go to market strategy has come under fire, as fellow market watcher IDC urged the vendor to cut the price of the device back in February.

As reported by IT Pro at the time, IDC said the average selling price of the Surface range will need to come down if Microsoft wants to achieve a higher volume of sales.

Speaking to IT Pro, Andy Trish, managing director of Microsoft reseller NCI Technologies, said the build quality and performance of the product would have to be pretty special to justify its high price tag.

"They've put a lot of investment in the Surface, which I understand was in development for three years," he said.

"If they sell a million, that's a lot of investment they've ploughed into it to sell that amount of machines.

"As a product, it would have to be outstanding to be able to sell it at that price compared to their competitors," added Trish.

Microsoft is remaining tight-lipped about the prospect of a separate B2B marketing push around the product, which has been marketed as the more business-friendly of the two Surface tablets.

Several Microsoft resellers IT Pro has spoken to claim to have received little information from the firm about how the device will be sold within the B2B market.

"It's difficult to see where exactly Microsoft is trying to position this[from a pricing and marketing perspective]," said Context's Davies.

"It's going to be battling against higher end, high-spec, more established devices, such as the MacBook Air, which is a completely different kettle of fish.

"In terms of business use, it's going to be compared with some pretty nifty Ultrabook equipment coming out from the likes of Dell and Lenovomade by people who really know how to make hardware," he added.

Release date woesThe time it's taken Microsoft to rollout the device to the UK may have also put the product on the backfoot over here, given that it was released in the US and Canada back in February.

Microsoft's Moulster told IT Pro the release strategy was embarked on to ensure it could keep up with demand for the product.

"We were trying to make sure we were able to make those experiences [for users] as good as possible, and could meet the demand and do it in a way that people could buy the devices when they want them," he added.

But, in a world where the likes of Samsung and Apple usually push out their big product releases to the UK within a month of their launch, Davies said consumers and businesses will have expected something similar from Microsoft.

"It's like that famous Marlon Brando line from On The Waterfront. 'I could have been a contender'. That sums it up for me," said Davies.

"That's what Microsoft will be saying about the Surface in the years to come."

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