At the beginning of August 2013, Microsoft cut the price of all Surface Pro tablets by $100. By the end of the month, the cuts had been made permanent, and accessories such as the touch cover also received a permanent price drop. According to a recent statement, the company was “excited” at consumer reactions to the reduced pricing and said it was “eager for more people to get their hands on this incredible device.” Low sales numbers, however, don’t mesh well with the company line. Is the Surface Pro price cut a sign this tablet’s days are numbered?
Who’s Going Pro?
In its annual 10-K report published at the end of July 2013, Microsoft released sales numbers for all Surface tablets. Combined, the Surface RT and Surface Pro generated $853 million in revenue. This is certainly not the number the company hoped for, especially considering the massive marketing push seen prior to the tablet’s release. But it gets worse: The 10-K report shows that Microsoft spent at least a billion dollars on sales and advertising for Windows 8 and Surface.
A large part of the problem stemmed from lackluster business adoption. The Surface Pro targeted companies specifically, boasting an Intel chipset and full Windows 8 rather than the RT version. While it included a micro SD card slot and early reviews of its touch cover were generally favorable, there was a large problem: battery life. Business users reported that they couldn’t get more than four or five hours out of a single charge, making the tablet an expensive option for substandard performance. Although new Intel Haswell chips were touted as a way to solve the issue, the damage was already done, and Microsoft wasn’t able to recapture business interest.
Only Skin Deep
Price cuts to the Surface Pro, RT, and all accessories are reminiscent of the Blackberry Playbook. Microsoft needs to sell what they can and invest in development; according to a recent article at TechRadar, the company sent out invitations to the media for a press event on September 23, where they announced a release date for Surface 2. It’s not all bad news for the Pro, however, since international orders have been strong, and immediately after its release many stores in the United States were completely sold out.
Criticisms of the battery and its lifespan have been defended by Microsoft designers, who say their aim was to produce a smaller, lighter tablet than others on the market; reduced battery life was an unfortunate trade-off for functionality in other areas. Simply put, there was enough interest in the original Surface Pro to justify an upgrade, one with better battery life and which will feature Windows 8.1. What’s more, there’s speculation that the next iteration will include the Surface Dock, enabling external display and other essential connections and ideally eclipsing the need for a traditional desktop PC.
The Surface Pro price cut means a good deal for a robust, well-reviewed device — but one that’s on its way out, not up. Expect announcements from Microsoft in the next few weeks about what’s in store for the next Surface generation.
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