Microsoft, Apple cut deals to clear out tablet, notebook stock

Experts expect both companies to roll out revamped devices this month powered by new processors

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The deals' timing is another clue that Microsoft is trying to get rid of its Surface inventory before launching new models. Its original tablets are coming up on their first anniversary -- Microsoft surprised the industry with its own hardware on June 18, 2012 -- and the BUILD conference at the end of this month would be a perfect stage for unveiling new tablets.

Microsoft is also expected to follow other OEMs in adopting new Intel processors, those from the "Haswell" architecture, that boast improved graphics performance and better battery life, for its Windows 8 Surface Pro device.

Microsoft has so far declined to state Surface RT and Surface Pro sales figures. IDC pegged Surface RT shipments -- which are different than sales, since they account for devices manufactured but not yet sold -- for the fourth quarter of 2012 at about 900,000 units, but just 200,000 for all Windows RT-powered devices, of which the Surface RT represented the bulk, in Q1 of 2013.

Like its rival, Apple also launched a promotion last week that could be seen as an attempt to clear out inventory.

On Thursday, Apple got an early start on back-to-school season -- or at prep graduation gift giving -- by doubling the educational discount of the 13-in. MacBook Pro notebook to $200, lowering the price of the entry-level laptop to $999 for parents and teachers of K-12 students, as well for as college teachers, staff and students.

The more expensive MacBook Pro with 8GB of memory, a faster processor and a larger hard disk drive, now costs $1,299 in that same deal, $200 under the retail list price.

Neither of the MacBook Pro notebooks at discounted prices includes the Retina-style display.

Apple is expected to announce new MacBook laptops at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which starts June 10 in San Francisco. Those new laptops will likely feature Intel's Haswell processors that promise 50% longer battery life and double the graphics performance of the Core CPUs known by their code-name Ivy Bridge.

Supplies of some models of the MacBook Air line have also been in short supply, an indication that that line will also be refreshed at WWDC with the Haswell processors.

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

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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