re: Why Schools Could Save Windows RT
Thanks for the comment, melgross. You bring up some good points.
I think it depends on what the school prioritizes. Sure, not ALL schools are going to act on price alone. LA Unified is a case in point; the iPad - and its superior app experience - won out, despite Microsoft appealing directly to the district's decision makers. But in other cases - such as Clear Creek Independent School District in Texas, which we wrote about a few weeks back, and which was also mentioned in the "tablets at work" story we ran yesterday - schools have opted for Windows 8 devices because they offer the cheapest combination of tablet mobility, Internet access, and laptop-style word processing. So while I agree that iPads might be better educational devices for certain applications, some schools have already shown that Windows tablets offer a value proposition that fits what they're trying to achieve. The customers who will decide on price might not constitute the entire market, in other words, but they're still there, and they're still numerous.
As for the sustainability of the Windows RT pricing, I agree: prices this low are not sustainable. As I suggested in the article, Microsoft is probably dumping inventory while hopefully enticing a few people - and developers - to give RT a new look. But if some schools invest in RT during this fire sale, they might stick with RT when it comes time to refresh devices, especially since by then, Microsoft will have either gotten its app ecosystem in order or sent RT the way of Zune.
But Redmond can still take a lesson about pricing away from this sale. At its original price, virtually no one wanted the Surface RT. Now that it's a lot cheaper, interest has increased. When the next Surface RT comes around, Microsoft needs to find a middle ground-- cheap enough to sustain interest, but not so cheap that it's shooting itself in the foot. Some analysts - Dave Johnson at Forrester is one - believe that the Modern UI app economy is the real value proposition here, not the devices, and I agree. So I think it could make sense for Microsoft to accept very low margins in order to stimulate growth elsewhere in its ecosystem. Maybe a new Surface RT that maintains the original's build quality but runs $299 or so.
But we'll see. My point in the article wasn't to suggest that Windows RT will definitely succeed in schools; rather, I was pointing out that this is the OS's first clear growth opportunity in a while.