After abandoning both the Windows RT operating system and long-gestating plans for the release of a diminutive, affordable Surface Mini tablet, Microsoft decided to focus the consumer hardware efforts of the software-first company squarely on higher-end products.

These are obviously pricier than some of the world’s most popular slates, generating heftier profit margins, but losing the sales volume battle to Apple’s more diverse iPad portfolio. Maybe not for long, though, as a new “line of lower-cost Surface tablets” is reportedly in the works.

The first 10-inch member of the classroom-friendly family could be unveiled “as soon as the second half of 2018”, according to rock-solid sources on the inside, fetching around $400 with iPad-like rounded edges and a USB Type-C port that’s still notably absent from the Surface Pro.

Significantly lighter than the latest Pro generation, the new unnamed budget-friendly Surface is also expected to lose quite a bit of battery life while still packing Intel processing power and graphics muscle.

Perhaps most importantly, there’s no reason to fear an unlikely comeback of the universally loathed Windows RT platform, with the full 10 Pro experience to be offered on a tighter than usual budget.

$400 will naturally get you just the slate, without any productivity-enhancing accessories like keyboards or pens, while LTE connectivity and twice the base 64GB internal storage should also cost extra. Interestingly, Microsoft is tipped to bring “less-expensive” versions of its optional keyboard cover, stylus and mouse to the market by the end of the year, although plans are still very much in flux.

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