Windows RT's race to the bottom

Dell has heavily discounted its only Windows RT tablet, and Microsoft is giving Europeans up to 25 percent off new Surface RTs with covers

The checkered flag is out and the race to the bottom for Windows RT manufacturers has entered the final laps. Dell -- for all intents and purposes the only Windows RT hardware manufacturer left standing, other than Microsoft -- just dropped the official price of its only Windows RT tablet by 33 percent. At almost the same time (when most of the tech world is watching Google I/O), Microsoft started giving away free Touch or Type covers with all new Surface RTs sold in most of Europe, effectively up to a 25 percent discount.

Two weeks ago when I wrote about Windows RT circling the drain, only Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Microsoft actively offered Windows RT tablets. Since then prices for the Asus VivoTab RT and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga RT have dropped lower still -- not terribly surprising, given the lack of demand. Now comes word that Microsoft and Dell (recipient of a $2 billion loan from Microsoft in February) have not only dipped their toes in the race to the bottom of the barrel, they've donned concrete galoshes and jumped screaming into the fray.

First Dell quietly lowered the retail price for its XPS 10 multitouch Windows RT tablet with 32GB of flash storage from $450 to a hair-pulling $300. Yep, the price dropped 33 percent overnight.

Then Microsoft quietly started offering free Touch or Type covers for all new Surface RT tablets sold in many European countries. Although prices vary depending on country, that's roughly a 25 percent discount on the entry-level Surface RT. If Microsoft made the same offer in the United States, it would be throwing in a $130 Type cover with every $500 Surface RT. The offer is for every Surface RT sold between May 15 and June 30.

As of this writing, Microsoft hasn't extended the offer to the United States, Canada, Australia, China, Japan, or any other Asian country I can find. But it does have official ordering pages for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy (where the deal isn't so good -- buy a Surface RT 32GB and get a 16 percent discount), Luxembourg (in German and in French), Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland (in German and French), and the United Kingdom.

I haven't seen an official announcement about the price reductions -- and it's unlikely there will be one. Given the near-complete silence about Windows RT in yesterday's Windows 8.1 "Blue" announcement, one has to wonder if Windows RT has been downgraded from a shunned embarrassment to an unmentionable skeleton in the Windows closet.

I don't think we're going to see any more dancing-and-clicking college students gleefully tossing Surface RTs anytime soon.

One also has to wonder if the non-announcements were timed to appear just as the tech community is turning its eyes toward Google I/O.

This story, "Windows RT's race to the bottom," 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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