Microsoft has dramatically reduced the price of its Surface RT ARM-powered tablet world-wide, following slower than expected sales and rumours of a growing stock backlog which must be cleared out ahead of a next-generation device launch.
Microsoft's Surface RT family is now nearly a third cheaper than at launch, as rumours spread of an upgraded model waiting in the wings.
Microsoft's first entry into the tablet market as a creator of retail hardware, rather than of software and reference platforms for its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and original design manufacturer (ODM) partners, the Surface RT was designed to showcase Windows 8's ability to run on the low-cost, low-power ARM processor platform. Based around the touch-centric Modern UI, previously known as Metro, there's no denying that Windows RT lends itself to a touch screen - and the optional Touch Cover, which doubles as a touch-sensitive keyboard seemingly styled after Sir Clive Sinclair's iconic ZX80, is a handy extra.
Sales of the device have, however, been slow. Windows RT, while perfectly acceptable as a tablet-centric operating system, has a serious drawback when compared to its parent operating system Windows 8: it provides no access to the classic desktop user interface, nor compatibility with existing legacy applications. As a result, those who are interested in a Windows tablet are either buying Microsoft's Intel-powered Windows 8-based Surface Pro or alternative x86 devices from rival manufacturers - and those who want the low power drain of ARM are going for non-Windows platforms like Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
While initial issues surrounding the device - including software bugs and manufacturing defects in the Touch Cover - have been addressed, sales have remained slower than Microsoft would hope. As a result, the company has dramatically reduced the price of the device - adding weight to rumours that a more powerful replacement is just around the corner.
Announced in the US over the weekend and now live in the UK, the reductions see the 32GB Surface RT drop to £279 while the top-end 64GB model hits £359 - reductions of over £120, or almost a third, compared to launch pricing. As before, the Touch Cover or Type Cover accessories are not included - adding a minimum of £100 to the cost of the gadget - while the Surface Pro devices, which include Intel processors and full-fat Windows 8 operating system, remain at their previous prices.