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Leaked Windows 8 tablet pricing suggests Asus is targeting big spenders

Asus' first batch of Windows 8 tablets won't come cheap, at least according to a leaked product roadmap full of pricing details.

Pricing for Asus' Vivo Tab RT will start at $599, and the Intel Atom-based Vivo Tab will start at $799, according to the roadmap obtained by ZDNet. Optional keyboard and trackpad docks, which transform the tablets into laptops more or less, will reportedly cost an extra $199. This raises the total price of the Vivo Tab RT to about $800 and the Vivo Tab to $1000.

Of course, we don't know if the roadmap is legitimate or fake, but the details it shares are difficult to square with reality. First, Asus' official press materials suggest that the Vivo Tabs' keyboard and trackpad docks are essential, and will be included with the tablets. To quote directly from Asus' announcement: "Key to the Vivo Tab's recipe for Windows 8 is the supplied mobile dock."

Then, later in the same press release, we find: "The Vivo Tab RT also has the same innovative Transformer design as the Vivo Tab and is supplied with its own mobile dock that provides a QWERTY keyboard, track pad, USB port and built-in battery."

I could be misinterpreting Asus' definition of "supplied," but it seems unlikely that Asus would relegate a main ingredient in its product to optional add-on status. Even if including the dock raises the overall cost, it would help sell the notion of Windows 8 tablets being two devices in one, and would make the higher pricing easier to justify.

The pricing listed in the ostensibly leaked roadmap also fails to square with what other manufacturers have said about the cost of Windows 8 hardware. Last month, Lenovo's head of North America operations, David Schmoock, told Bloomberg that Windows 8 tablets will cost between $600 and $700, and that Windows RT tablets will cost $200 to $300 less than that.

Outside the sweet spot

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested a similar price range last week, when he told The Seattle Times that $300 to $800 is the "sweet spot" for the PC market. Those prices represent a ballpark figure for Microsoft's upcoming Surface tablets, which will come in Windows RT and Windows 8 flavors.

Although the higher end of Microsoft's price range looks the same as Asus' supposed Vivo Tab pricing, the Windows 8 Pro version of Surface will use an Intel Core i5 processor, rather than the weaker Atom chip found in the Vivo Tab. Asus is making its own Core-based Windows 8 hybrid called the Transformer Book, but according to the leaked roadmap it will be much pricier at $1399.

Something doesn't add up here. Either the leaked roadmap is inaccurate, or Asus has gone mad and priced its Windows 8 devices high above the competition. And this doesn't seem very Asus-like. The company, after all, is delivering the Android-based Nexus 7 for $199, and all its previous Android tablets have undercut the pricing of direct competition. This is what Asus generally does. It sells great hardware at killer prices.

With so many other PC makers preparing their own Windows 8 hybrids -- many with designs that are similar to the Vivo Tab -- any type of high-end pricing approach could spell big trouble for Asus.

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