REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft’s first tablet computer, the Surface, will start at $499 when it goes on sale Oct. 26.
The price matches that of Apple Inc.’s iPad, the most popular tablet, but the base model of the Surface has twice as much storage memory: 32 gigabytes. The screen is also slightly larger, at 10.6 inches vs. 9.7.
The signature hardware feature of the tablet, a cover that doubles as a keyboard, will cost $100, Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday.
A step-up model for $699 has twice the memory, 64 GB, and includes a cover.
The launch of the Surface is an unusual move for Microsoft, which usually sells software to computer makers instead of making computers itself.
The company is coming out with a new version of Windows next week, one that is optimized for touchscreen devices and will run on tablets and PCs. Every time it sells a Surface, analysts say, Microsoft will record some revenue for the Windows 8 operating system. Manufacturers that build competing Windows 8 tablets will pay Microsoft a fee, estimated between $30 and $80 per device.
That’s a big expense, especially considering that manufacturers are allowed to use Google Inc.’s Android operating system for tablets and smartphones free.
The Touch Cover has a working, printed keyboard on its inside surface, but the “keys” don’t move. Microsoft will sell a Type Cover with keys that move for $130.
The first version of the Surface won’t run regular PC software, but it does include a version of the Office suite. Microsoft plans to release a version of the Surface later with the ability to run regular Windows programs.