Let’s play the ‘clear the channel’ game: Teachers that attended the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference are eligible to receive a free Microsoft Surface RT device. The giveaway isn’t too surprising, but its scale is, as it could amount to 10,000 tablets.

Assuming that Microsoft is giving away the cheapest Surface RT configuration, sans luxuries such as Touch Covers, the total MSRP of the handout would total $5 million. That’s a bit of coin.

The teacher deal isn’t the only bit of work that Microsoft is doing to clear the current channel of Surface devices. In late May the company offered blistering discounts to attendees of TechEd North America:

  • Surface RT 64GB with touch cover bundle for $99.99 USD
  • Surface Pro 128GB standalone for $399.99 USD

That sale is being repeated at TechEd Europe, with the following discounts in place:

  • Surface RT 64GB standalone (with FREE touch cover) for €79.99 for EU customers and £69.99 GBP for UK customers
  • Surface Pro 128GB standalone for €349.99 for EU customers and £299.99 for UK customers

Here’s the kicker: those deals are not just open to fully paid up attendees of TechEd Europe, but also to press, third-party staff, and students. In short, if you are even in the vicinity of TechEd Europe, you can get your mitts on some cheap Surface action.

Why is Microsoft doing all of that? There are two options, as far as I can tell. Either Microsoft has surrendered the Surface line, and is simply giving away the final units as it hands its head in shame and exits the OEM stage, or it is simply clearing channels as it prepares for new, or updated models. The first possibility isn’t happening, so we are left with only a single idea.

Do we have any evidence for the latter? Yes. As TNW reported before, Microsoft is slowly rolling out higher-capacity Surface devices, including a 256GB model in Japan. It isn’t hard to imagine that those expanded units will hit other shores as well. Thus, the smaller, earlier devices have to go. And what better way to lower supply than hand the hardware to teachers – good press, and a nice thing to do – and sell the rest at fire sale prices to technology-related folk.

TNW reached out to Microsoft for note on what the apparent channel clearing and was given the following statement from a spokesperson:

Similar to other product lifecycles, these offers are in response to the positive reaction we’ve had from Surface customers since its launch in October, and our goal is to help as many customers as possible experience all the benefits Surface has to offer. We have nothing to share about future Surface plans.

That statement says nothing at all. Whatever the case, look for larger capacity devices in the near future.

Top Image Credit: Vernon Chan