Microsoft has slashed the price of Surface RT, making the device pretty affordable. Anyone hoping that Surface Pro would see a similar reduction will be disappointed. Microsoft shows no signs of cutting the price of its premium tablet, suggesting the company is happy enough with sales and margins at the moment.
The problem with RT is it looks like Windows 8, and behaves like Windows 8, but isn't Windows 8. If you buy Surface RT, or any other tablet running the OS, you might reasonably expect to be able to run traditional software on it. But you can't.
Rumors that Microsoft was planning to cut the price of Surface RT have been swirling for a couple of days, and yesterday they came true. Staples in the US is currently advertising the 32 GB base model of the device for $349.99, a drop of $150. Although the price reduction hasn’t been seen elsewhere yet, it should start appearing at other retailers next week. No word on whether the reduction will be offered in other territories.
The price cut is interesting as it’s yet another example of Microsoft offering aggressive discounts on Surface RT. The 32 GB version was made available to schools and universities for $199, and attendees at the Worldwide Partner Conference and TechEd gatherings were offered Surface RT 64 GB with touch cover for $99 (although admittedly they had to pay a fortune for a ticket in the first place).
Microsoft released the 256 GB Surface Pro in Japan almost a month ago and, since then, it left potential buyers puzzled as to when the new model arrives outside of the land of the rising sun. Well, the date is today, as Microsoft just expanded the availability of the latest Surface Pro version to include new major markets. There's a catch though.
Microsoft tells me that "there will be limited availability of a 256GB version of Surface Pro in the U.S. exclusively through the commercial channel and the authorized Surface resellers". This model runs for $1,199, making it $200 more expensive than the 128 GB Surface Pro which goes for $999. And, at least at the moment, the former cannot be purchased from Microsoft Store or any retail shop.
In an effort to boost the adoption and sales of its two Windows slates, on Monday, Microsoft introduced a new channel program (simply called Microsoft Devices Program), which allows authorized resellers to commercialize Surface Pro and RT devices.
"Today, we’re announcing the first phase of our expansion into the business channel that allows customers to purchase Surface and commercial services through authorized resellers", says Microsoft. "In addition to offering Microsoft's extended warranty and accidental damage, resellers bring a variety of additional value-added services to the Surface family, such as asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection".
Microsoft just announced that, between June 17 and August 31, schools and universities will be able to take advantage of special pricing when purchasing Surface RTs. During that period, the tablet runs for $199.99, $299.01 lower than the $499 the software giant normally asks in its online and brick and mortar stores for the Windows RT-based device.
The special offer only applies to the 32 GB Surface RT and not to the 64 GB model. Eligible buyers will also be able to purchase bundles, which add a Touch Cover (available in Black, Cyan, Magenta, Red and White trims) or Type Cover, for $249 or $289 each, respectively, and three accessories -- VGA and HD Digital AV adapters and power supplies (all run for $39.99).
Microsoft Surface Pro gets even stiffer competition from new 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air -- which one would you buy?
To the untrained eye, this comparison appears to be moot. After all, the Surface Pro is a tablet and the 11.6-inch MacBook Air is, indeed, an ultrabook. Traditionally, the two types of devices rarely have anything in common. Tablets offer touchscreens, portability and great battery life while ultrabooks usually fail to deliver the same level of versatility. So how can one pit the Surface Pro against the smaller MacBook Air?
As my colleague Joe Wilcox explained almost seven months ago, the two devices actually have a great deal in common. The Microsoft-branded tablet kicks off at $899, can be coupled with a dedicated keyboard, has expansion ports, runs a fully-fledged operating system and, to its disadvantage, delivers pretty appalling battery life. The Apple-branded ultrabook packs similar hardware specifications, starts at $999 but offers a built-in keyboard from the get-go. And, in the meantime, the fruit company upgraded its device to Intel "Haswell" Core processors which provide a tremendous bump in battery life. Now, more than ever, choosing between the two is a very tough call.
Halo, the popular gaming series released back in 2001 by Bungie, is a big success for Microsoft. So much so that the company wishes to expand on the platform and port it over to other devices, both mobile and PC-based. The franchise has become a mainstay of Xbox, but the new version promises a refresh.
Halo: Spartan Assualt comes with new gameplay spanning 25 missions, an original story set between the events of "Halo 3" and "Halo 4", touch controls (in addition to keyboard and mouse), new achievements, integration with Halo 4 and more.
Microsoft began to sell its first tablet, the Surface RT, back on October 26, 2012, and added the Surface Pro in February 2013. Since then, sales figures have been less than stellar (well, possibly). This brings Microsoft to an interesting point -- it is time for desperate measures. In other words, the company is holding a fire sale. Of sorts.
Starting May 31 Microsoft announces "We are excited to announce a special offer for those of you in Canada and the United States. For a limited time beginning May 31, receive a free Touch Cover, Touch Cover Limited Edition, or Type Cover with the purchase of a Surface RT".
On Wednesday, Microsoft's Japanese arm revealed that on June 6 the Surface Pro tablet will finally be available in the land of the rising sun. The fondleslab is set to arrive in two different trims with 128 GB and 256 GB of internal storage, the latter of which is offered for the first time on the Surface Pro.
The 64 GB Surface Pro will not be available in the local market, likely due to the fact that users can access just 23 GB of storage (practically less than half of the advertised capacity). Microsoft took heavy fire for this caveat, which it appears to avoid in Japan. Prospective buyers can also grab Touch Covers with different design themes, a move that the company carried over from other supported markets.
Microsoft certainly seems to be ramping up the help for its new operating system at the moment. First it uploaded a "Get to know Windows 8" video to YouTube, and late yesterday it published a "Windows 8 End User Training Brochure" in its Download Center.
Unlike the video, the 36-page PDF guide is definitely new (there’s a screenshot from April 2013) and will prove a godsend for anyone struggling to get to grips with Windows 8 or Surface. Each of the multi-colored pages clearly and concisely explains how to use a particular element of the operating system, with the aid of large, friendly illustrations.
It may not be entirely what we hoped for, but today the NFL makes strides towards greeting the twenty-first century. Earlier we saw the big Xbox reveal which, among other things, reveals a partnership with the National Football League. The sport is the last holdout of major U.S. leagues to embrace the internet, but better late than never, I suppose.
Today's show in Redmond, Wash. features a short video-taped appearance by commissioner Roger Goodell to talk of the new features that Xbox One customers can expect. However, it is only half of the story. Later in the day, the Surface team announces that the NFL will also be available to customers of the Microsoft tablet.
Not content with free versions of its cut-down photo editing software for iOS and Android, Adobe has released Photoshop Express for Windows 8 and RT. As this is available free of charge, it should come as little surprise that the app does not afford users access to an unfettered range of professional level image editing tools, but for quick and dirty tweaks and fixes, there are plenty of options.
Taken a wonky photo? Getting things straightened up takes just a couple of taps and swipes. There are also tools for removing red eye, adjusting color levels and tweaking shadows and highlights. If you don’t feel like doing the hard work yourself, you can always turn to the auto-fix option to help take care of common issues in an instant.
This is how you sell a tablet. Tuesday evening of May 14, Microsoft debuted a new commercial for the Surface RT that finally explained the benefits of the tablet. No dancers. No super cool music. Just Microsoft talking about why the Surface RT is the next device you should own. The company emphasized the included USB port, kickstand, keyboard, and the single biggest sell of Surface RT, the included Office 2013 install. It sold the Surface as the power of a computer in the package of a tablet.
Is this not precisely what I called on Microsoft to do in my previous article about those odd (but awesome) Windows 8 ads? In that article I told the story about a guy who was working in a coffee shop on his Surface when someone walked up to him and said, “Is that the tablet that clicks?” He recognized the product from the commercials, but seemed to be unaware of anything other than its clicking. I wrote,
We already knew that Surface Pro was coming to Europe, but what we didn't know was exactly when. The company today announces the dates for availability, and the rollout begins in France on May 17, continuing to the United Kingdom on May 23. It wraps up with a broad May 30 release in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, and one more big day in Germany on May 31.
There's more to come, but Brian Hall, General Manager of the Microsoft Surface team concedes that "some markets are still confirming timing so aren’t included here".
If you live in the UK and are thinking of purchasing Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet, now is the time. Pick up one through the Microsoft Store or a participating retailer (which in terms of brick and mortar sellers means John Lewis) and you’ll get a Touch or Type Cover thrown in for free.
It’s a very good deal, as you’d be looking to pay around £100 if you were to buy a cover separately. You can pick up the 32GB tablet-only version of Surface for £399 at the moment.