Microsoft conceived Windows RT and Surface to compete with the iPad.
And IDC's Bob O'Donnell believes that will dictate pricing. For both Microsoft-branded Surface RT and other Windows RT products from companies like Asus and Dell.
The 32GB iPad (currently $599) has a big bull's eye on its back, O'Donnell told me yesterday. For both Surface and RT devices from Microsoft partners. And throw Windows 8 Pro devices based on Intel's power-efficient system-on-a-chip, aka Atom, into that mix too, said O'Donnell.
Remember, RT tablets use power-frugal ARM chips and come with a version of Windows 8 that is not compatible with older Windows software. Windows 8 Pro tablets, on the other hand, are powered by Intel chips and can run the millions of older Windows programs out there.
The only product lines that won't compete directly with the iPad are high-end tablets (and tabletlike devices) based on Intel's fast Core i series chips used in ultrabooks, said O'Donnell. They will be priced in the $899 to $999 ballpark, he said.
And that will include Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet coming out in early 2013.
And what about that rumored $199 Microsoft Surface tablet that theoretically would compete with Google's $199 Nexus 7?
For guidance, I have been told repeatedly by Microsoft that "suggested retail pricing...is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC." (The same statement Microsoft made in June when it launched Surface.)
And I was told yesterday by someone familiar with Microsoft's Surface strategy that "comparable" does not apply to a 7-inch tablet, like the Nexus 7. Comparable products are 10-inch class tablets with the latest versions of Android from a first-tier player like Samsung.
So, that means theoretically that Surface RT and other RT products could compete with a low-end 10-inch class Wi-Fi-only Android product from Samsung, for example.
Whatever the case, all of the low-end 10-inch class Android tablets from top-tier vendors, like the $399 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, are competing with the $399 iPad 2.
But $199? I'll leave that to readers to speculate (e.g., $199 with a monthly Microsoft subscription), but I don't see any new 10-inch $199 tablets from Samsung, Motorola, or Asus.