Last week we reported that Staples would begin carrying Surface RT for $349 beginning Sunday, but the price hack was seen throughout a number of retailers, including Microsoft's own retail stores. Now it looks as if the price could be a permanent thing to flush out the remaining stock and make room for the second generation unit slated to arrive in fiscal 2014.
When Microsoft first introduced the ARM-based Surface RT, the 10.6 inch 32 GB model sold for $499 and the 64 GB model for $599. But they weren't easily accessible to the consumer: they either had to purchase the tablet online through Microsoft's online store, or locate an actual brick-and-mortar location. Sales weren't all that great, but improved somewhat when the tablet was finally allowed to be sold in normal retail outlets.
But sales still haven't reportedly been what Microsoft had hoped. To push even more units out the door, the Redmond company launched a promotion that offered a free cover for anyone who purchased a Surface RT unit before June 2013. The company also sold attendees of the TechEd North America and Microsoft Partner Conference the 64 GB version of Surface RT for a mere $100. Ouch.
To this day, Microsoft has not released the official sales figures of the Surface line. However the company has blamed sluggish Windows RT sales on customer confusion. And although the tablet does come packed with Office Home & Student 2013 RT, it still can't run their favorite desktop software offered on the consumer's x86-based Windows tower or laptop. That said, a price cut still may not move Surface RT units off store shelves.
Computerworld reports that Microsoft was able to drop the price of Surface RT due to a lack of OEM support. Currently most third-party partners have either flocked to only Windows 8 Pro, or publicly announced that their Windows RT plans are on a wait-and-see-how-it-does schedule. They have been keeping an eye on Surface RT which in turn hasn't reportedly produced impressive numbers.
Starting Sunday, the $349 32 GB version of Surface RT popped up at Staples, Best Buy and Microsoft. The discounted price tag is just above cost, as Microsoft spends around $284 on each unit. At this point, Microsoft may be relying on accessories like the keyboard cover to make a profit off the series. And as previously stated, it's likely flushing out hardware to make room for the second generation supposedly landing on store shelves in late fall.
According to the Staples ad and the online listing. the price hack will end on July 20, or while supplies last. The discounted Surface RT 32 GB model was also shown on the back of Best Buy's Sunday ad brochure, but didn't mention anything about a time limit. Even more, the website shows that it's also selling the 64 GB model for $449.99 – order either unit online and Best Buy pays the shipping (Staples has the 64 GB version too). Microsoft's own reduced Surface RT tablets can be purchased here.
Now that consumers are halfway through July, should they simply wait for the next generation before sinking money into Microsoft's Surface line? The next Surface RT model will reportedly sport Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 for the LTE models and Nvidia's Tegra 4 for the Wi-Fi only models. They'll also come with Windows RT 8.1 out of the box which is supposed to be a huge improvement over the previous Windows RT release.
When purchasing a new Surface RT tablet, keep in mind that the 32 GB model will only yield around 15 GB of free space to device owners. The 64 GB model offers a better user capacity with 45 GB of free space, possibly making it a better deal for those not wanting the keyboard cover accessory but willing to pay the extra bucks.