Can Microsoft’s Surface tablet compete with iOS and Android?

Microsoft’s Surface tablet is one sleek looking device. But can it take on Apple’s wildly popular iPad and the plethora of Android tablets already on the market?

Well, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu believes pricing will be critical in ensuring Redmond’s tablet success. As such, says Wu, Microsoft will need to price its ARM-powered Surface close to or even below Amazon’s flagship $199 Kindle Fire.

As AppleInsider’s Neigh Hughes points out, a low Surface price point would force Microsoft to take a loss on its hardware, much as Research in Motion (RIM) has done with its moribund PlayBook.  

Nevertheless, Brian White with Topeka Capital Markets emphasized that Surface “will need a healthy price discount to the iPad” if it hopes to gain any real traction. However, Microsoft will likely have a “difficult time” undercutting the iPad, as Apple’s last-gen iPad 2 is priced at a $399. To make matters worse for Redmond, White says he believes Cupertino could very well release a smaller “iPad Mini” this September at a $250-$300 price point.

White also opined that ARM-powered Surface tablets will likely pose more of a threat to Android than Apple’s iPad, but noted Intel-based Surface devices could have a place in “certain parts of the enterprise world.” 

Meanwhile, ARM rep Lance Howarth weighed on the official debut of Microsoft’s Surface by issuing the the following statement:

“[We are] excited to see Microsoft’s announcement of Surface for Windows RT. It represents a significant milestone in Microsoft’s journey to expand the support of the Windows operating system and embrace the ARM architecture… Devices like Surface for Windows RT demonstrate that we are in a new era of computing as energy efficient mobile technology redefines our expectations of consumer devices, creating new and compelling experiences that change our everyday lives.”

As TG Daily previously reported, Microsoft will be rolling out two primary classes of Surface tablets: one loaded with an ARM processor (Nvidia Tegra) running Windows RT, and the other with a third-generation Intel Core chip running Windows 8 Pro.

Surface for Windows RT is scheduled to launch with the general availability of Windows 8, while the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Pricing has yet to be announced, but Microsoft says it will be “competitive” with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. 

Additional Surface specs are available here.