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As we inch towards the Microsoft Surface ale date of October 26th, news comes trickling in. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has placed orders to produce 3-5 million devices in the fourth quarter of this year–comparable to the numbers for Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7, per suppliers. And today, Microsoft announced the prices for the tablet: $499 for a 32GB model, $599 for a 32GB model with black Touch Cover keyboard, and $699 for a 62GB model with the Touch Cover keyboard. Color Touch Cover keyboards run $119.99, and bulkier Type Cover keyboards run $129.99.

A number of commentators out there seem to think that the Surface pricing is too high, particularly at entry level. VentureBeat’s John Koetsier points out that you can get an iPad 2 for as low as $399 (though granted, that’s a 16GB model). He rounds up a series of people on Twitter who feel the same way.

In truth, though, the Surface pricing is pretty reasonable, for what you’re getting. There seems to have been an unreasonable expectation set by the launch of the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet that any newcomer to the tablet market should be priced under $200. (Indeed, there was some–far-fetched–speculation that maybe Microsoft would price the Surface that low.) As Time’s Harry McCracken puts it smartly, “Good products rarely die purely because they’re too pricey; bad ones don’t become landmarks simply because they’re affordable.” McCracken also takes a fun look at Microsoft’s burgeoning retail aspirations; currently, it only has 27 retail locations across the US. Apple has more than 50 in California alone. (This is a major reason why Microsoft is experimenting with “pop-up” stores during the holiday season to help peddle the Surface.)

Meanwhile, if you’re a real Surface-information junkie, you can’t do better than take a look at The Verge’s report on the design history of the tablet. Microsoft invented in-house machines just to aid in the process of creating the Surface. Microsoft designed 200 custom parts to make the tablet, and lavished particular attention on the innovative keyboard concepts that may come to be synonymous with the device. “There’s an air of confidence from everyone involved with the Surface,” writes David Pierce, “–they really seem to believe in the product.”

And they’ve priced it according to that belief.

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Tagged: Computing, A123 Systems

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