Microsoft discounts Surface for college kids, goes for price edge over Apple's MacBook Air

$150 price cut makes the cheapest Surface Pro 3 tablet competitive with 11-in. MacBook Air

Microsoft on Sunday kicked off a month-long deal on its new Surface Pro 3 tablet-slash-notebook for college students, cutting prices between 10% and 19%.

The promotion, which runs until Sept. 3 in the U.S. and Canada, reduced the price of the entry-level Surface Pro 3 -- a device with 64GB of storage space and equipped with an Intel Core i3 processor -- by $150, from $799 to $649.

Microsoft's running a college student special: $150 off all Surface Pro 3 tablets.

Other models of the Surface Pro 3 will be sold to eligible college students at smaller discounts. The tablet configured with 256GB of storage and a Core i5 CPU, which regularly lists for $1,299, was priced at $1,149, or 11.5% off. The two priciest tablets, powered by the faster -- and reportedly hotter-running -- Core i7 processor, were discounted 10%, to $1,394 (256GB storage) and $1,754 (512GB).

A keyboard for the Surface Pro 3 -- an extra expense, but mandatory to use the device as Microsoft has pitched it -- runs $117, or $13 less than list.

The least-expensive Surface Pro 3, then, will cost a college student $766, or $83 less than the entry-level 11-in. MacBook Air when bought by a student. (Apple also throws in a $100 gift card valid at its online and brick-and-mortar retail stores.)

Normally, that Surface Pro 3-plus-keyboard combo would end up $80 more than an 11-in. MacBook Air with 128GB of flash storage.

However, Microsoft has taken to pitting the Surface Pro 3 against Apple's 13-in. MacBook Air, even though the former's 10.6-in. display is closer in size to the smaller Air. If students use the 13-in. MacBook Air as a comparison, the on-sale Surface Pro 3 is $183 cheaper.

Microsoft's Surface sale is valid only to college students, not to parents or staff, as is Apple's back-to-school deal. "[This offer] may require additional eligibility verification and confirmation at checkout to complete your order," Microsoft said in a statement on its website.

The company also said that quantities are limited, and that it would restrict purchases to one per customer.

Microsoft's online store has additional details about the for-students-only offer and the Surface Pro 3 itself.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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