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July 19, 2013 at 9:36 AM
New Surface RT ad taking on iPad part of Microsoft’s efforts to goose sales
A day after Microsoft announced it was taking nearly a billion-dollar write-down on Surface RT inventory, it’s releasing a new ad pitting it against the iPad and touting the Surface RT’s now-lower price.
Of course, the lower price — a $150 reduction — is the reason Microsoft took a $900 million write-down in its fiscal fourth quarter on the Surface RT inventory in the first place.
The Surface RT tablets, which run a “lite” variant of Windows 8 that will not run full desktop Windows programs (other than Office) but will run apps designed for the Windows 8 tile interface, was originally priced at $499 for the 32 GB version and $599 for the 64 GB version. The price reduction brings the cost down to $349 and $449, respectively. The keyboard covers that feature in all the ads for Surface cost extra.
The new ad and price reduction are part of several actions Microsoft folks have taken in recent weeks to try to goose sales of the Surface RT.
It’s also reduced the price of the Surface RT to schools and allowed more resellers to sell the tablet.
Brian Hall, general manager of Surface marketing, said in an interview Thursday that “people who use Surface RT are strong advocates of it.”
But there simply aren’t many of them out there and, he acknowledged, “it’s going to take a significant number to compete with 100 million-plus iPad [users.]”
The challenge, he says, is “we’re establishing a different category in the tablet market — the productive tablet.”
Some analysts and users have pointed out, however, that the app ecosystem for the Surface RT (which, aside from Office, runs only apps from the Windows Store) lags behind that of Apple’s and Android’s in terms of number of apps and specific apps that people in particular industries may need to use.
“The Windows Store is growing really fast,” with some 100,000 apps in it now, Hall said. And “the most important apps for getting things done — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook — are on it. We’re the only tablet with the Office suite.”
The new Surface RT ad, like a previous Microsoft ad featuring a Windows 8 tablet, goes one-on-one with the iPad, using a fake “Siri” — the Apple iOS voice-activated assistant. This new ad, which will air on TV and online, makes fun of the iPad’s lack of kickstand, USB port and custom keyboard, ending with “Siri” saying: “Do you still think I’m pretty?”
The ad had been shown earlier this month at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference where it received loud applause from the attendees.