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Microsoft slashes Surface RT price

Microsoft's Surface RT

Microsoft’s Surface RT

A while ago I wrote about the $99 Surface RT I scored for my kids at TechEd North America in June, which for that price was a steal. To this day, I still believe it, although my kids don’t use the RT much because they’d rather play their favorite game, Minecraft, on the PC.

But when my kids argue for more screen time and I ask them to read a book instead, the Surface RT is a win-win solution. It satisfies their need to get more screen time and for me, I get them to read more.

Now Microsoft just slashed the price of Surface RT on its website by $150 to spur sagging demand. On Microsoft’s website the RT starts at $349 for a 32GB version while the 64GB model goes for $449. Still pricey but a comparable 32GB model of the iPad goes for $599.

The lack of apps and the high price tag has given the Surface RT a tough time making any inroads into the tablet market. Many IT buyers remain cautious of an RT, or any Surface device for that matter.

But with Redmond’s push to drop Surface RT to $349, and the ability to get a free update to Windows 8.1 and Outlook, the question is whether the price slash will kick-start demand. I don’t believe Microsoft will cancel Surface RT in the short-term as the company tends to support projects for at least two to three iterations.

However, Julie Larson-Green is now at the helm and she’s got a long road ahead of her. If Surface RT doesn’t  pull its weight in Microsoft’s new devices and services strategy, then energy may be better spent with a low-cost version of Surface Pro that offers more battery life or developing a mini-tablet form factor. (Think Acer Iconia Windows 8 mini-tablet). Or, they could just put all their support behind their partners and not worry about their own Microsoft-labeled tablet.

Regardless, I’ve spoken to a few Surface RT users recently and they actually do like their device. One of these users has a Surface RT and a Surface Pro. (Isn’t one enough?) But what’s interesting is that this user actually prefers his RT because of the longer battery life for all day meetings or conferences. He is willing to forgo the lack of RT apps and use it as a companion to his main PC.

And that is the key. Microsoft needs to do a better job at marketing Surface RT as a companion to one’s main PC, whether it’s a laptop or desktop. User expectations change when they accept that the Surface RT is not designed to be your main computing device but as a partner. It’s the unit on the go when you don’t need to have everything with you all the time – just like my iPad.

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I like the 'companion' idea - makes more sense than to bill this as any kind of standalone product that can replace what you already have. I haven't yet heard from anyone that the price is what had held them back, though (more the apps/features), so I'm still on the fence about whether this cutback will really increase sales significantly. 
I think people will wait, especially as new tablets come to market. Plus, you're right about apps. The apps sell the device. If the app isn't available, buyers are more than willing to wait or look at alternative options.