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Microsoft tablet partners announced amid rumors of $199 Surface

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As we get closer to the launch of Microsoft’s new version of Windows, a clearer picture is emerging about what the tablet landscape will look like at launch.

We already know about the flagship Windows tablet, of course: Microsoft’s own Surface, which Engadget recently reported may have a price tag of $199. That would put the company in a very good position to sell against Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and, most importantly, Apple’s iPad.

But pricing the Surface so low could have some other consequences. When the company debuted the in-house tablet this June, it set off buzz not only about the tablet itself but also the effect the tablet would have on the rest of the Windows ecosystem.

In other words, many wondered, if Microsoft’s running point on Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets, how many other companies will join them?

The picture is filling out. Microsoft announced that Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Samsung will be releasing tablets in the near future. And Toshiba announced Tuesday that it will not be making a Windows RT tablet at launch, CNET reported, while it’s still unclear whether Hewlett-Packard will step in with a Windows follow up to its TouchPad.

Any of those manufacturers would be hard-pressed to produce a tablet for $199. Acer executive JT Wang, who already told the Financial Times that the Surface would be a problem for his company, also told Digitimes that such a huge price difference would be very damaging.

Microsoft has yet to offer any solid details about the Surface’s price, saying only that consumers should expect prices “to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC.” That had most people expecting the lighter Windows RT tablet to come in around the same price point as the iPad or iPad 2. If Microsoft can offer a larger tablet at a price currently reserved for the 7-inch squad, it will be quite the draw even if accessories such as the keyboard cover are sold separately.

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