Microsoft Cuts Surface Pro Pricing, But Weak Battery Life Still Clouds Sales Picture


Microsoft, after slashing the price of its Surface RT tablet last month, is lopping $100 off its pricing for the 64- and 128-GB Surface Pro tablets, in a promotion that runs through Aug. 30.

After the price cut, Microsoft is selling the 64-GB Surface Pro for $799 and the 128-GB model for $899.

While the price cut could help, the bigger issue with Surface Pro is its weak battery life, which makes it a non-starter for business users, one Microsoft partner told CRN.

"Surface Pro does everything users need from a touchscreen perspective, and it's got a [microSD] card slot for huge files. But until they improve the battery life, I don't see it catching on with businesses," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

[Related: Partners: Surface Pro's 4-Hour Battery Life Is A Deal Breaker]

Surface Pro, which comes with an Intel i5 chip and runs full-blown Windows 8, was supposed to be the version that appealed most to business users. But, battery life has been a deal breaker for many partners and customers.

Microsoft partners are hoping rumors of a forthcoming Surface Pro upgrade, with Intel's new Haswell chips providing longer battery life, are accurate.

"Four-hour battery life stifles productivity. I can't recommend a 4-hour device even if it has a nice keyboard," a CEO for a Microsoft enterprise partner told CRN last month.

Of course, partners are also hoping Microsoft will change its stance on letting them sell Surface tablets at all, which most can't do today.

Microsoft began selling Surface Pro in May but hasn’t given any indication of how well it's selling. According to IDC figures released in May, Microsoft shipped a combined total of 900,000 Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets in the first quarter.

After Microsoft cut Surface RT pricing by 30 percent last month and took a $900 million charge during its fiscal fourth quarter, industry watchers have been waiting for its next move on Surface Pro.

While the $100 price cut won't cause as much fiscal pain as the Surface RT write-down, it's not good news, either.

Still, Surface Pro does have its supporters. Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, calls Surface Pro "an enticing product" that sometimes gets misinterpreted in the marketplace.

Moorhead says the $100 price cut could spark sales as long as it's backed up with enough marketing.

"It's important to look at Surface Pro primarily as a notebook, secondarily as a tablet," he said in an email. "In that context, the value proposition works really well."

PUBLISHED AUGUST 5, 2013