Microsoft has both cut the price of its Surface Pro 3 and is offering up to $US650 towards the purchase of the tablet-cum-laptops to customers who trade in older Microsoft Surface devices.
The reasons may be as mundane as a desire to move more units, or an attempt to reduce inventory before the company introduces a successor to the Surface Pro 3, which launched in June 2014.
The price cuts - $US100 off for any configuration debuted in late January, and were a repeat of discounts Microsoft offered during the holiday season late last year. This month, however, Microsoft expanded the $US100 reduction to the lowest-priced Surface Pro 3, dropping it 12.5 per cent to $US699, and extended the offer through February 28.
Previously, the sale omitted the 64GB, Intel Core i3-powered configuration, and was to end February 7.
Discounts on the other Surface Pro 3 configurations ranged from 5 per cent to 10 per cent. The tablets - which Microsoft hawks as replacements for laptops -- do not come with a keyboard, which costs an additional $US129.99.
On Sunday, Microsoft also kicked off a buyback program, which credits customers for turned-in Surface RT, Surface 2, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3 devices. The program runs through March 8.
The credits must be applied to an online purchase of a Surface Pro 3.
Trade-in credits vary by device and configuration, with the maximum of $US650 for a 256GB Intel Core i5-powered Surface Pro 3.
A Surface 2, the discontinued 2013 tablet that ran Windows RT, a spin-off of Windows 8, maxes out at $114 for a 64GB device, $US105 for a 32GB. (Computerworld priced all the Surface buybacks without a keyboard.) A Surface Pro 2, the predecessor to the current Surface Pro 3, will generate between $US186 (for the 64GB configuration) and $US361 (512GB).
The amounts Microsoft credits for returned Surface tablets were generally higher than the cash given by third-party buyback firms like Nextworth and Gazelle. For instance, Gazelle pays $US156 for a 64GB Surface Pro 2, or $US30 less than Microsoft credits, while Nextworth pays $US198 for a 128GB Surface Pro from early 2013, or $US9 less than Microsoft offers in a credit.
Customers will not be able to apply the credits toward the currently-reduced prices of the Surface Pro 3, however. Even if the timing worked out - users must ship their Surface to CExchange, Microsoft's partner in the buyback program, which evaluates the device's condition, then issues the credit via an emailed redemption code - the trade-in deal includes a clause stating, "Not combinable with storewide discount promotions."
Microsoft has run buyback programs before and discounted the Surface, both to juice sales of its tablet line.
The continued $US100 discount could augur a refresh of the Surface Pro line, as did a similar price cut two months before the unveiling of the Surface Pro 2 in October 2013. But rumours of a Surface Pro 4 have pegged launch dates no sooner than July.
In the fourth quarter of 2014, Microsoft reported record Surface revenue of $US1.1 billion, with a gross margin of between 19 per cent and 20 per cent, still low, perhaps even insufficient to cover marketing costs, but significantly higher than the third quarter's gross profit of just 9 Both sides make last-minute push on Net neutrality.
Surface device owners can start the buyback process on Microsoft's website.