Talking tech since 2003

When most people think of a tablet computer, the first and only thought they have is Apple’s iPad. It doesn’t matter that Apple didn’t invent the tablet (well, maybe they did, but not the current incarnation of the device)—ever since the company released the iPad, tablet computers have become a device category that finally matters to consumers. But in an effort to break the iPad’s stranglehold on the tablet category, Microsoft will soon offer schools all across the globe discounted Surface RT tablets. Is this part of a larger plan to brainwash global youth? Maybe!

It seems that some intrepid Windows-watchers caught some images from an upcoming sale Microsoft’s planning to unleash starting Monday, June 24. According to a post on ZDNet, from June 24 through August 31, Microsoft will be selling standalone Surface RTs for $199 and $249 for tablets bundled with touch-keyboards to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. These are pretty deep discounts from their usual retail prices of $499 and $599, and if schools decide to take advantage of the offer, could go a long way to providing extremely useful resources and technological skills for students.

Compare this offer to Apple’s iPad discounts for schools. To get a 16GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi, institutions can pay $399 a unit, or get 10 for $3,790, which amounts to a $20 per unit discount. And the $399 price for schools is a discount off the retail price of…zero percent. Yes, that’s how much Apple charges for a new 16GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi.

Considering the fact that you can buy two Surface RT tablets for the price of one iPad 2 (and let’s not even touch the $499 iPad with Retina display), it seems that Microsoft is looking to position itself in a place that will get Windows 8 in the hands of an important demographic. Consumer habits start young, and getting a whole generation of kids comfortable and familiar with using Windows would go a long way to earning them as lifelong customers. I’d be curious to see whether or not Microsoft manages to earn schools’ business with this offer.

Economically, it’s a no-brainer: schools with education budgets or grants that are earmarked to get tablets and computers into students’ hands can provide double the devices for the same amount of money. And since iOS isn’t OSX, just as Windows RT isn’t Windows 8, compatibility with computers isn’t really much of an issue.

On the other hand, this is a limited-time offer, and it’s entirely possible that funding has been earmarked not just for “technology” but for certain specific purchases. If a school’s already going to buy a bunch of iPads for the library, it might be too difficult to mess with the bureaucracy and switch to Windows.

Hopefully Microsoft will release some numbers after the offer has ended to let people know about how many Surface RTs were bought by schools so we can see how well sudden price cuts work for getting devices into hands.

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