Windows RT license fees may cause tablets to start at £500

News Paul Briden 09:42, 13 Jun 2012

Microsoft's $85 license fee for Windows RT on tablets may cause very high prices for consumers

Windows RT tablets might be a bit on the pricey side as reports emerge that manufacturers will be footing a bill of $85 to Microsoft for every Windows slate produced just for the software license fee.

To set the scene briefly, Windows RT is a specialised version of Windows 8, the company's forthcoming cross-platform operating system aimed at both conventional PCs and touchscreen tablets. Windows RT is designed specifically for ARM processing architecture commonly used in mobile devices rather than the Intel x86 architecture found in desktop and laptop PCs.

Essentially, Windows RT is going to be the go-to build for any manufacturer that wants to make a Windows 8-based tablet, or at least until Intel fully breaches the mobile market with an x86 processor.

The news comes via VR-Zone's Theo Valich, who claims that during the recent Computex 2012 event in Taipei, at which Microsoft gave a keynote speech, he spoke to ‘multiple vendors' about pricing.

Contrary to earlier rumours that Microsoft would offer its software package for a competitive $35 license fee, he says that these sources insist they've been given a price by Microsoft of around $85.

Why is this important? Well if Microsoft wants to make it big in the tablet market it has two main competitors, Google's Android platform, which is free to any manufacturer who wants to stick it on a slate, and Apple's iOS, which is locked down and can only be found on the company's own iPad devices.

The $85 license fee means there's pretty much no way any Windows RT tablet manufacturer can undercut Android tablets on price. As Valich points out, looking at how much it typically costs a manufacturer to bring an Android device to the market without paying Google for the operating system, the initial layout of Microsoft's price doesn't leave much room for Windows RT tablets under the $500 mark.

As prices for mobile electronics tend to ignore exchange rates and translate pretty much directly from US dollars to British pounds, for us in the UK that's probably going to mean a £500 starting figure for the most basic Windows RT device. Valich was specifically told by some manufacturers that their launch tablets for Windows RT would be priced between $549 and $799.

It appears the potential for £1000 Window RT tablets is very real.

Of course, at the back of all this Microsoft is a software company. It doesn't make phones, or tablets, or PCs and it doesn't generate online advertising revenue as Google does, so it has to make its money selling its software at a fixed price.

The only problem here is that the price it's selling for is going to drive Windows RT tablet prices up well above the competition.

If that's going to happen, and if Windows RT tablets are going to be a commercial success, then the end-user experience is going to have to be something very special indeed.

The only solace seems to be that manufacturers are still pushing forward with preparing devices for launch despite all this, which we hope is a testament to their faith in the platform and an indication of just how good it's going to be.

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