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New rumor puts Windows RT Surface tablet at $199

Could Microsoft's Windows 8 tablet be gunning for the Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7? Don't bet on it yet.

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The pendulum of rumors surrounding the possible price of Microsoft's upcoming Surface tablets is swinging wildly from one extreme to another.

First came the sighting of an over-$1,000 price on a Swedish site that turned out to be nothing more than a meaningless placeholder. Now an anonymous source has apparently fed Engadget a report that Microsoft is looking at launching the Surface for Windows RT tablet on October 26 for a suggested retail price of $199.

The question is, is the notion of a Windows tablet priced to compete head-to-head with the Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7 just as baseless as a random number inserted in a Swedish retail database?

When Microsoft first unveiled the Surface, there was talk of pricing for the Windows RT version being comparable to other ARM tablets, and an Intel-based Windows 8 Pro version that would compete with Ultrabooks. At the time, it seemed that would put the Windows RT version somewhere in the pricing vicinity of an iPad, Transformer Prime or other top flight tablet, says somewhere between $399 and $599, or maybe a little higher, as CNET's Eric Franklin estimates.

But that was then.

In the intervening months, Google released its Nexus 7 tablet to rave reviews (including mine) for $199. So, perhaps Microsoft has seen the light and is ready to push the Surface out as a loss leader?

Crazier things have happened, but at this point it still seems unlikely for a number of reasons, including the extreme rift it would create between Microsoft and its other hardware partners and the lack of any corroboration for what's essentially an anonymous tip.

That said, it would be interesting to see another front open up in the tablet war with three major operating systems competing on price. But I'm not getting my hopes up, and I'm also not believing the rumors of a Facebook tablet that are almost certain to rear their ugly heads soon.