Discount sparks demand for Surface tablets

Lowering the price of Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets by $75 could boost sales significantly, judging by the frenzy created by a Staples coupon

There's been a lot of talk in the tech press this week about demand for Microsoft's Surface Pro: Why did the supply of 128GB Surface Pro machines dry up moments after they became available online? Why did they mysteriously reappear later, only to flip-flop from "Available" to "Out of stock" faster than a quantum leap? Why couldn't customers find more Surface Pros in the stores that are supposed to be carrying them?

There are plenty of competing theories: Microsoft is manipulating availability; the stores didn't order enough because they didn't want to get stuck with tons of useless merchandise (now commonly referred to as "RT bricks"); Microsoft advised the stores to order more, but they didn't listen; Microsoft didn't build enough Pros, and that's why availability was delayed by a week or so.

In the end, only a few people know the answers to those questions -- and they aren't talking. As Preston Gralla says in his Computerworld blog, everything you've read and heard on the subject is absolute, complete, utter conjecture.

Now I have another question to add to the mix: Would sales of the Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets pick up substantially if Microsoft dropped the price $75?

There's a reason why I ask. Two days ago, the coupon clipping site Slickdeals posted a link to a coupon that offers a $75 discount on any Windows computer purchased at Staples. A few hours ago, John Callaham at Neowin wrote about the deal -- mentioning the offer also applies to Surface machines -- and as best I can tell, the story grew wings.

I started monitoring availability of Surface machines at the Staples online store, and several things happened in rapid succession. The 128GB Surface Pro has been "out of stock" at Staples since shortly after it became available, but right about the time the coupon news hit, the 64GB Surface Pro went out of stock. Then the 64GB Surface RT went out of stock.

All the while, the Microsoft Store has had ample supplies of the 64GB Surface Pro, and the 64GB Surface RT. Best Buy still has the 64GB Surface RT, but the 64GB Surface Pro isn't available for online ordering (although it is shown as "Available" in a few stores). 

Perhaps the coupon deal sparked some sort of feeding frenzy. You really have to wonder if lowering the price by just $75 spurred some people to buy the cheaper machines.

I'm not talking about giving away Surfaces -- although Bill Snyder's recommendation still brings a chuckle. But perhaps Surface sales, particularly for the lesser models, is more price-sensitive than many people thought.

This story, "Discount sparks demand for Surface tablets," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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