Steve Ballmer suggests Surface tablet will be priced similar to the iPad

Microsoft Surface tablet and Steve BallmerSquashing our collective dreams of a $200 Surface tablet, Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer implied a price more comparable to the iPad than the Kindle Fire in a recent interview with Seattle Times.

Ballmer said the “sweet spot” for the PC market runs somewhere between $300 and $800. Not exactly a concrete price for the company’s first Windows 8 tablet, but at least it’s a ballpark number — even if it varies by $500.

Microsoft’s CEO elaborates on his opinions of budget-minded tablets in the interview:

“I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device. … (When) people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they’re chintzier, they’re cheaper.

If you say to somebody, would you use one of the 7-inch tablets, would somebody ever use a Kindle (Kindle Fire, $199) to do their homework? The answer is no; you never would. It’s just not a good enough product. It doesn’t mean you might not read a book on it….”

We’re not surprised Microsoft is holding off on naming a specific price for its upcoming tablet. Having an undisclosed price provides a market advantage, a chance to see what the iPad Mini will cost if its released next month. Then Microsoft can release the Surface with a competitive price that truly reflects the market.

Right now, you can get an iPad for anywhere between $400 to $800, depending on which generation, storage size, and connectivity options you choose. Based on this pricing, our guess would have the Surface RT priced around the lower side of the iPad pricing. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro — aimed at a more professional market — would cap out near the high-end of that spectrum.

If Microsoft wanted to be extra gutsy, it could always undercut the iPad and price the base model of the Surface RT at less than $400, but more than $200. That way it could still be marketed as a superior product to 7-inch tablets — as Ballmer seems to want — while still being more affordable than the cheapest iPad.

Regardless of pricing, however, Ballmer seems to have complete faith in the success of Windows 8 as a whole.

“I’m not paid to have doubts. (Laughs.) I don’t have any. It’s a fantastic product,” Ballmer told Seattle Times in the same interview.

What do you think the ideal price for Microsoft’s Surface tablet would be? Do you think it will be a success no matter what it’s priced at?

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: