Windows RT Tablet Licenses May Cost OEMs More Than $80 A Pop

Brad Chacos

It doesn't sound like Microsoft is interested in getting into a low-price slugfest with Amazon and Android for the bottom end of the tablet market. ARM processors are known for delivering good, energy efficient performance at low cost to OEMs, which would seem to make them a natural fit for decent, cheap Windows tablets when the next generation of Windows launches later this year. However, VR-Zone quizzed OEMs at Computex and found that Microsoft is charging $80 to $95 per device for Windows RT licenses, with $85 being the most common price point. Poof! Goodbye, dreams of low cost Windows tablets.

To be fair, VR-Zone's poll likely didn't include major manufacturers like HP, who probably wouldn't disclose licensing costs. Also, that price includes the licensing cost for Office 13 RT, which will come preloaded on all ARM-based Windows tablets.

Even still, if the numbers prove to be true, Windows RT tablets will likely be priced more in the iPad range than the Kindle Fire range. It's hard to imagine a $200 Windows RT tablet hitting the streets if the manufacturer has to spend almost half that on an operating system license alone. In fact, VR Zone's sources say that ARM tablets available at launch will likely sport starting costs north of $500. At that price, Microsoft will need to bring something big to the table to lure tablet shoppers away from the iPad and top-end Android tablets.

Remember, too, that ARM-based Windows RT tablets will only work with Metro apps, while x86-based slates will have access to the full range of legacy Windows apps. Plus, as Microsoft doesn't require Windows 8 devices to ship with Office, manufacturers of x86-based Windows 8 tablets are likely looking at lowering OS licensing costs, as well. The odds seem a bit stacked against ARM, here.

Maybe that explains why there were 20 Intel Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets on show at Computex as opposed to a single, solitary ARM-powered Asus slate running on Windows RT (pictured above), though to be fair, a couple of other companies were showing of Windows RT prototypes.

How well do you think Windows tablets will fare against Apple and Android?

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