Microsoft slashes Surface RT prices by 60% for schools

Entry-level 32GB Surface RT costs $199, less than cost of goods

Microsoft today confirmed that it has heavily discounted the Surface RT tablet to universities and K-12 schools, cutting the price of the entry-level model by 60%.

It was the third time within a month that Microsoft has launched a Surface RT promotion, hinting at an impending refresh of the tablet.

On Monday, Ryan Lowdermilk, a Microsoft technical evangelist, published details of the deal. But later in the day, he pulled the information from his blog. According to Lowdermilk, the discounts were to kick off June 17 and run through August 31.

The deal is still a go, Microsoft said today. "Yes, it's true. We will be discussing this more in greater detail on June 24, both from the ISTE showroom floor and on our Education Newsroom," said a company spokeswoman. While Microsoft's not yet publicly trumpeting the discounts, they have already gone into effect and will continue through August 31, as Lowdermilk said yesterday.

The non-profit ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) will host a conference in San Antonio June 23-26.

Prices to schools and universities have been significantly slashed for the two-month promotion.

Under the deal, the 32GB Surface RT, normally $499, goes for $199, a 60% discount. The same tablet with a Touch Cover keyboard runs $249, also 60% off. Schools and universities pay $289 for a 32GB Surface RT with the more keyboard-like Type Cover, a 54% discount.

In an accompanying brochure, Microsoft touted the inclusion of Office Home and Student 2013 RT with each Surface RT "Students can write reports, crunch numbers, take notes and present their findings with Surface RT -- without having to install additional software," the brochure said.

Microsoft also reminded potential customers that Outlook 2013 RT will beef up Office on Surface RT when the Windows 8.1 update ships this fall.

Microsoft's school special wasn't the first of the season. Three weeks ago, it kicked off a buy-a-Surface-RT-get-a-free-cover deal set to run until June 30. And at TechEd North America, a June 3-6 conference, Microsoft sold attendees a 64GB Surface RT for $99 and a 128GB Surface Pro for $399, 83% and 60% off list price, respectively.

The sale-to-schools prices were below Microsoft's cost, according to estimates of the tablet's component prices. Last year, Sameer Singh of Tech-Thoughts pegged the Surface RT's bill of materials at $309.

The multiple Surface RT offers have fueled speculation that Microsoft is drawing down existing inventory before it introduces new, smaller Surface tablets, perhaps as early as next week when its BUILD developers conference begins June 26.

The current Surface RT and Surface Pro -- the latter powered by Windows 8 rather than the less-functional, tablet-centric Windows RT -- were introduced a year ago today by Microsoft in an announcement that took virtually everyone by surprise, including its long-time OEM partners.

Microsoft on Monday accidentally leaked big Surface RT discounts for schools and universities, but today confirmed that the deal is legit. (Image: Microsoft.)

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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

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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