The program is quite simple: Surface devices will be sold to schools at low prices. The restriction is that only the 32 gigabyte, Windows RT-based model is part of the program. Here are the prices schools will be offered:
Surface RT (32GB) – $199 USD (Estimated Retail Price is $499)
Surface RT (32GB) with Touch Keyboard Cover – $249 USD (Estimated Retail Price is $599)
Surface RT (32GB) with Type Keyboard Cover – $289 USD (Estimated Retail Price is $629)
As you can see, those discounts stretch past the 50% mark. The program will last from today, June 17 to August 31, 2013. Both K-12 schools and universities are eligible. The following countries are where the program is active:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China (via Digital China), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Microsoft published a short question and answer segment on the blog of its loyal denizen Ryan Lowdermilk. From those passages, why Microsoft is being “aggressive” in the sale of Surface units to schools:
Microsoft has a long tradition of offering special pricing to education customers. Microsoft’s mission in education is to help schools, students and educators realize their full potential. We do this by investing in education institutions through software, hardware and services at affordable prices. We think Surface RT is a terrific tool for teaching and learning, and we want students and educators to have the best technology on the market today.
Here’s a thought: At $250, Microsoft is selling a full tablet computer and keyboard that contains Microsoft Office for less coin than it costs to buy Office by itself in certain SKUs. Far, far less, in fact.
This, as you surely have noticed, is not the first time that Microsoft has in recent months enacted a steep price decline on its Surface line of devices. At TechEd North America, and Europe, the company sold heavily discounted first generation Surface hardware. And the company announced a 10,000 unit giveaway to teachers at an educational technology conference.
The company quite obviously has stock on hand to distribute.
I floated the idea that Microsoft is working on channel clearing, either to prepare for higher-capacity devices, or perhaps the next generation of devices. If the company has forecasted that it would not sell through its Surface RT stock before the next model was released, it would have been a simple choice to offer those units at a discount to get them into the hands of folks who want them. That remains speculation, however.
Update: Microsoft provided TNW with a short statement, the key part of which is: “Yes, it’s true. It’s important Microsoft does its part to help get devices into the hands of educators that help prepare today’s students with skills modern businesses demand.” Cheap tablets. Come ‘n get ’em.