Surface RT prices are plummeting. Is the tablet's fate headed in the same direction?
In a sign of slack demand -- or that a product refresh is imminent -- Microsoft has drastically slashed the price of its Surface RT tablet by $150. Formerly sporting a price tag of $499, a 32 GB Surface RT tablet now sells for $349. Similarly, the 64 GB version sells for $449 instead of $599.
Although generally praised for its svelte design, high-quality construction and innovative touches like a built-in kickstand and touch cover peripherals, Surface RT failed to emerge as a serious threat to Apple's market-leading iPad. By January, Microsoft reportedly managed to sell only one million units, despite a surge of initial demand following its launch. By comparison, Apple sold 15.4 million iPads during the fourth quarter of 2012.
Hinting that Surface RT sales fell short of expectations, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Surface RT sales were off to a modest start in the weeks after the tablet first hit store shelves.
Microsoft shocked the industry when Surface RT first debuted on June 19, 2012 during a press event in Los Angeles. "Surface is designed to seamlessly transition between consumption and creation, without compromise. It delivers the power of amazing software with Windows and the feel of premium hardware in one exciting experience," boasted the company in press remarks.
Surface RT runs Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 that supports ARM-based processors. ARM's chip technology is used in the vast majority of today's smartphones and tablets, due to its ability to deliver lively mobile computing experiences while maximizing battery life. Unlike Windows 8, however, it cannot run x86 software, which describes the vast majority of the Windows software ecosystem.
In February, Microsoft followed up Surface RT with the Surface Pro, an Intel-powered slate that offered buyers the full Windows 8 experience. Although thicker, weightier and more demanding of batteries, it was praised by tech reviewers for its ability to run legacy Windows software and more seamlessly slip into enterprise systems and user management schemes.
Microsoft isn't the only company banking on price cuts to spur demand for its mobile device offerings.
Beleaguered handset maker BlackBerry has lowered the price of its Z10 flagship phone, which recently sold for $199 to $99. AT&T is offering the phone for $0.01 with a two-year contract.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.