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MS Stores: What You See Is NOT All You Can Get

My nine year old son, Gregory, is suffering from techno-lust. He wants to buy a an XPS 27 Touch, a Dell 27″ All-in-One touchscreen PC that comes with Windows 8 pre-installed, along with 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB conventional hard disk, wireless 802.11n, Bluetooth, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. Because he likes to look at and contemplate his planned purchase — my wife and I have decided to provide a matching grant, where every dollar he saves will be matched by an equal contribution from the family exchequer — we drop in on the Microsoft store once or twice a month these days, so he can play with (and on) the demo versions of this system that they make available to prospective shoppers.

After we finished dinner at a nearby restaurant last Saturday night, we made the pilgrimage to the Microsoft Store so he could play with an XPS 27. While he was running through some Xbox games for the PC, I had a chance to chat with one of the senior sales staff in the store. We started talking about the Surface Pro, and I expressed my frustration that the units only came equipped with 4 GB of RAM and didn’t include a 256 GB SSD. Much to my surprise, my interlocutor informed me that one could indeed purchase a Surface Pro with 8 GB of RAM (it has a single SO-DIMM slot, apparently, and can be equipped with an 8 GB module) and a 256 GB SSD, on special order at a price of around $1,200.

If you’re smart enough to ask, you can get upmarket Surface Pro models from the Microsoft Store.

That’s when I also learned that MS has recently given the sales staff more latitude to make deals with customers through their stores, and to offer more options on hardware configurations, bundles and packages, and even volume purchases for enterprises or organizations seeking to acquire Windows 8 computing platforms in bulk. It seems that for some time, the staff was prevented from engaging in “real sales” with bigger buyers or well-heeled customers, but that is apparently no longer the case. The recent mark-down on the Windows RT model of the Surface has also been accompanied by a more sales-oriented approach to wheeling and dealing in Microsoft’s retail arm. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft plans to let word on this change of philosophy make itself known to the marketplace. I have to believe I’m not the only person unaware of this recent development.

As for myself, I might have already bought a Surface Pro had I been able to get what I thought was unavailable earlier on. Given that Haswell-based Surface Pro units should be available by year’s end (or perhaps in tandem with the Windows 8.1 GA release in mid to late October), I may just decide to see how much of an additional mark-down I can wangle on a previous generation unit with the specs I wanted all along, and buy one of those instead. Only time will tell!

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