Microsoft tries to boost Surface Pro tablet sales by cutting prices $100 during important back-to-school shopping period.
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Microsoft on Sunday slashed $100 off the price of the Surface Pro tablet. The 64-GB model is currently available for $799, either directly from Microsoft or several big box retailers. The 128-GB model is now $899.
The device's Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboard accessories are still being sold separately, at $119.99 and $129.99 respectively.
Microsoft confirmed to the Verge website that the discount will run until August 29. The price cut arrives in time to take advantage of the back-to-school rush, which is traditionally a heavy period for device sales. It could also persuade on-the-fence business users to finally take the plunge, and might also indicate that an updated Surface Pro is imminent.
It's been clear that the Surface Pro hasn't set any sales records, but it's been better received the Surface RT, and there had been speculation that its sales were somewhat healthier. This proved not to be the case, which became clear when Microsoft filed its annual 10-K report with the SEC. The filing revealed that the Surface Pro and Surface RT earned only $853 million combined, confirming that both tablets have fared poorly.
With students shopping for school supplies, the discounts might help Surface Pro sales, however. More business-oriented than the Surface RT, Microsoft's Pro tablet can run desktop software and features the same Intel i5 processor found in many laptops. For college students that want to travel light while remaining productive, and who aren't dissuaded by the relatively weak selection of apps in the Windows Store, the Surface Pro could be a nice option, especially with Windows 8.1 on the way.
Still, the $100 price cut saves customers less than if Microsoft had simply offered keyboards for free. Productivity is a big part of the tablet's appeal, and to be productive, one of the keyboards -- probably the more expensive Type Cover -- is a prerequisite.
With either keyboard, the 128-GB model is still more expensive than the base 128-GB MacBook Air, a device popular with both students and BYOD workers. Apple's sleek laptop weighs slightly more than the Surface Pro but boasts a 9-hour battery life, thanks to Intel's new Haswell chip. The Surface Pro uses an older, less power-efficient processor, and is thus subject to a number of design compromises -- including poor battery life that caps out around four hours.
Haswell, though, could be one of the reasons for the price reduction. Ballmer has already confirmed that new Surface models are coming, and among the probable upgrades to the Surface Pro, a cutting-edge processor is the most obvious. The price discount could have as much to do with eliminating Surface inventory as with capitalizing on the back-to-school frenzy.
By later this fall, Haswell chips will be found in a number of devices, including a variety of Windows 8 tablets. To keep pace, it's likely that Microsoft will refresh the Surface Pro sooner rather than later. In the meantime, it remains to be seen if the Surface Pro's new price will drive sales.
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