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Microsoft to Sell the Surface RT in Boutique Stores, Wants to Be Apple

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By , dealnews Media Editor

It looks like the worm has turned — the worm in the Apple, that is. Pathetic attempt at clever word-play aside, has anyone else noticed that Microsoft is trying to become more Apple-like? From its Surface RT pricing, to its "boutique" marketing strategy for said tablet, can Microsoft effectively realign its brand with that of the Cupertino giant?

Microsoft Surface RT for $499

Last week the world was given its first look at the pricing structure of Microsoft's Windows Surface RT tablet. We also learned that when Steve Ballmer said that the tablet would be priced in line with the competition, he meant that Surface RT would mimic the pricing tiers of Apple's iPad. An interesting strategy indeed, because there are plenty of cheaper tablets on the market that are actually in competition with the Surface RT. But that's not the point. The point is that Microsoft will be selling their Windows Surface RT tablets for a base price of $499, in step with Apple's iPad.

Is the Microsoft tablet going to be as popular and profitable as the iPad? Microsoft can only hope so. But a kink in the manufacturer's plans will likely come in the form of the iPad 2, which is still available for $399. Sure, the iPad 2 is last year's model, and the specs on the Surface are way better, but how many consumers look past the price point when it comes to buying non-essential electronics?

The Microsoft Store as the New Apple Store

And speaking of profits, it has come to light that Microsoft intends to sell its new tablet only in their stores, both online and brick-and-mortar. Sounds very Apple-esque, eh? The big difference, though, is that in addition to its 31 current Microsoft Stores, the company plans on opening an additional 32 "pop-up" stores for the holiday season. (Combined, that's a whopping 62 locations in which to buy the RT tablet!) However, much like the Surface RT's color scheme, pop-up stores are not something Apple would indulge in.

Apples to Apples, Discounts to Discounts

What will Microsoft's restrictive sales methods mean to the consumer? If we compare the new Windows Surface RT to the original iPad, which was at first carried by Apple only, the outlook for discounts is not good. The original iPad didn't see a discount until seven months after its release, and even then, it was a mere 5% off. All in all, it's likely that we'll see very similar discounts on the Surface RT, meaning: None at all. With Microsoft controlling the supply and boutiquing the product, they're unlikely to lower the price — at least, not at first. If sales are weak, don't be surprised to see the Surface RT price come down marginally.

Despite a lack of initial deals, consumers might still be able to obtain some plush perks when ordering. The Microsoft Store is particularly gift card-happy, and several deals we list from the Microsoft Store come bundled with an gift credit. We anticipate seeing similar credits bundled with Windows Surface RT tablets too, which will be particularly valuable, given the utility of the device; tablets are without apps and media to start, and a gift card could cover that initial onslaught of downloads. Plus, the Surface RT tablet will only be able to obtain apps through Microsoft's App Store, so that bundled $50 eGift could easily translate into 50 free apps.

Consumer approval of the Surface RT tablet will likely confirm or destroy Microsoft's marketing, branding, and pricing strategy. So what do you think? Is this a good direction for Microsoft to head in, to "boutique" their flagship products and become more Apple-like? Or is this just going to frustrate and confuse consumers who are used to getting their Windows products any-old-place? Sound off in the comments below.


Jeff Somogyi is the dealnews Media Editor. Think he's a Microsoft hater? He owns several Zunes. SEVERAL! Read more of his underdog-championing on Google+, Twitter or on his blog.

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Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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8 comments
ninny1176
No idea why, but you should probably send them both back since you seem to keep messing both of them up.
hutuka
Wow Apple fanboys on Dealnews, guess they're everywhere now LOL. Microsoft's marketing effort may not be as good as Apple (yet), but their products, well most of them, are far more superior and affordable. Just wait and see.
BrandonMills
People are really missing the mark on why Surface RT could be a success. Office. It's not just a killer app, it's *the* killer app. A tablet with Office on it could sell like hotcakes. It's a critical difference between the Surface and any device like the Surface. Perfect interaction with Exchange. Powerpoint...yes, *actual* Powerpoint on a tablet for presentations on the go. ( I've seen enough Keynote-to-Powerpoint conversions gone wrong btw. Nothing impresses like slides that don't work quite right at a big corporate meeting. And yes, they are running Windows and Office on their PC hooked up to the projector. Sorry. ) Excel - an app that has yet to be truly matched by any generic offering, and Word, the gold standard in word processors. It's easy for a Linux coder to come on and shrug at all of these, but in your typical office environment full of Admin Assistants, a file server loaded with Office files, etc.. this is the tablet you'll want to have. Should make a pretty great school tablet at well. I wouldn't count Windows 8 or Surface as duds just yet.
LibertyProject
 I'm happy to pay a premium for service, quality and folks who appreciate my business. I have both Apple and Microsoft products.....Why is it I want to throw my PC out the window when something goes wrong, yet when I have an issue with my Apple products, I never sweat it and want to hug the person who help me? 
ninny1176
It's amusing that you call MS "unfriendly" while Apple digs itself deeper into your wallet, but I guess that's ok with you as long as they make you feel warm and fuzzy.
Kyser_Soze
Microsoft wanted to be like Apple when they released the Zune. It didn't work and neither will this. The consumer likely to purchase their products are the same consumers that could purchase one of the Android products. Microsoft is too late and their consumers aren't as brand loyal as Apple's.
LibertyProject
Microsoft could never in a million years or billions of dollars duplicate Apple Stores. Microsoft is an unfriendly company, with unfriendly support to begin with. The entire culture is unfriendly, anti social and otherwise are completely clueless about hiring people who understand retail sales and marketing.

Microsoft retail will function about as good as their products. It will take a decade for Microsoft to work out the retail kinks and integrate a retail culture into the company. In the end, it will fail as an idea. 
algreimann
At least I'm not ready to bet on microsoft's boutique experience. What microsoft could do is work toward merging the growing division in tablet markets. Give users the easy of use found in iPads and the customization found in the andriod devices. Throw in the same productivity I have with my windows desktop, then we'll talk.
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