Microsoft discounts Surface Pro 3 as successor approaches

Also ships promised Start Menu update for the defunct Windows RT 8.1 operating system

Microsoft has discounted its Surface Pro 3 by as much as 19% in a sale that ends today, likely trying to reduce its inventory as it prepares to launch the successor in three weeks.

The Surface Pro 3, available in Microsoft's retail outlets and on its e-store, was discounted between $100 and $200, depending on the model, representing reductions of between 8% and 19%.

The sale began Tuesday and ends today at midnight PT.

An entry-level Surface Pro 3 -- the model powered by an Intel Core i3 and equipped with 64GB of storage space -- was discounted by $150, or 19%, the largest price cut in percentage terms, to $649. The smallest discount -- for the 256GB model with a Core i5 processor -- was 8%.

Microsoft did not discount the $130 Surface Pro 3 keyboard, necessary to make good on the firm's claim that the device is a PC notebook replacement.

Nor has the company reduced the price of the Surface 3, the smaller tablet that reached retail in May, signaling that while the Pro will be replaced next month, the Surface 3 will not.

Microsoft has slated a presentation Oct. 6 where it's expected to unveil the Surface Pro 4.

Also on Tuesday, Microsoft released an update for Windows RT 8.1, the OS that powers the 2012 Surface and 2013 Surface 2 -- tablets the company has discontinued.

The previously-announced update, labeled KB3033055, lets users modify the Start Screen -- a remnant of the panned Windows 8 and 8.1 -- to resemble the Start Menu of Windows 10, which is a return of sorts to the model used by Windows 7.

The new Start Menu of Windows. RT 8.1 is not identical to that of Windows 10, but does include some of the functionality of the latter, including the ability to "pin" apps and rearrange those apps in a grid on the right.

Microsoft has said nothing about the extent of future updates to Windows 8.1 RT other than to confirm that the ARM-powered Surface and Surface 2 tablets cannot be upgraded to Windows 10.

Previously, Microsoft pledged to support the Surface and Surface 2 hardware until April 2017 and April 2018, respectively, but promised to maintain the Windows RT OS for considerably longer: Until January 2023 with security patches, as long as tablet owners have upgraded to Windows RT 8.1.

KB3033055 can be downloaded by owners of the Surface and Surface 2 via Windows Update.

Windows RT update Microsoft

The promised update for Windows RT 8.1 adds the option of a Start Menu that resembles, but is not identical to, that of Windows 10.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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