Microsoft Discounts Surface Tablets for Education Market

Microsoft is looking to take a bite out of Apple's controlling share of the education technology market by offering schools a tempting discount on its Windows RT line of tablets, John Paczkowski of AllThingsD reports. What started as a giveaway of 10,000 tablets has now expanded to a sustained plan to offer the company's digital Surface devices, which run the Windows RT mobile operating system and pack 32GB of memory, for $199.

That represents a 50% discount over the retail price and the sale will run until August 31st.

The discount will also apply to other models, with the $599 Surface with an attached Touch Cover soft keyboard selling for $249 and the more rugged Type Cover, typically selling for $629 will be available for sale to K-12 schools, colleges and universities for just $289.

The particular attraction of the offer lies in the fact that Microsoft is not attaching a minimum purchase requirement to the sale — a nod to school districts all over the country that are working with tighter technology budgets. The price is available to schools not just in America but worldwide.

According to Microsoft, the rationale for the discount is its "long tradition of offering special pricing to education customers," and a "mission in education … to help schools, students and educators realize their full potential."

But more practically it's an easy way to juice sales and whittle down inventory of a tablet that has been slow to gain traction in the consumer market. According to research firm IDC, Microsoft shipped about 900,000 Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets in the first quarter of this year.

Getting the tablet into more hands could also help the company down the road especially as it continues to compete in the sector long-dominated by Apple. Sources claim that production numbers were easily triple this amount, which could leave Microsoft with plenty of unsold stock to offer at more attractive pricing.

If Microsoft's new education promotion works as intended, we'll see more Surface units in the wild. And that's important. Because it's hard to accept Surface as an alternative to the iPad or Galaxy Tab if you don't see other people using it. Microsoft's new Surface ads poking fun at Siri and the iPad are great. But they're sticks and rags in a world in which you board a flight from San Francisco to New York and there are dozens of passengers with their faces obscured by iPads and Kindles, and nary a Surface in site.

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