Microsoft’s Trade-in Program: MacBook Air for Surface Pro 3 is Sheer Desperation

| Particle Debris

Surface Pro 3 Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft looks to be ready to give up profits in order to sell larger numbers of Surface Pro 3's. "Microsoft offers $650 store credit for MacBook Air for Surface Pro 3 trade-in." I was in the Microsoft store at Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, Colorado yesterday and asked about this offer.

The Microsoft store representative said that the salesperson has to go online and get a realtime price for the trade-in, and the value changes daily. It's stated that a MacBook Air, presumably a fully loaded one, is worth up to US$650, but Microsoft's algorithm determines the final number.

This seems like a dubious proposition, and one would think that not many Apple customers would be willing to give up their MBAs, but the Microsoft rep claimed he already had done three such transactions since the program started a week ago. The offer, which runs until July 31, also applies to a Surface Pro 2 trade-in.

The program is an indication of desperation. Microsoft is banking on two dubious ideas. 1) The Surface Pro 3 is a better notebook computer than the MacBook Air and 2) Apple customers will agree with that proposition in sufficient quantities to significantly boost Surface Pro 3 sales. Neither idea is sound in my view.

The program also flies in the face of product wisdom. That is, Apple customers know that they buy Apple products because they are just so darn cool and useful. The product speaks for itself and is a joy to own. On the other hand, a trade-in program tries to appeal to a customer's sense of either buyer's remorse or the idea that they're getting some kind of special deal. Either way, this program sends a bad signal.

In addition, Microsoft hopes that they can deliver the trade-ins to a 3rd party service that refurbishes and resells. But that company will extract a profit as well, and the net result is that Microsoft will likely lose money while failing to significantly boost Surface Pro 3 sales.

Finally, there are great virtualization products for OS X available from Parallels and VMware, so if an MBA customer needs to run Windows software, it can be done with negligible speed penality and great integration to OS X. The reason to switch just isn't there.

For Microsoft, it's far better to build a product that people will stand in line for at oh-dark-thirty in the morning. Like an iWatch.  More on that coming up on page 2.

Next: the tech news debris for the week of June 23.

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And the I’m a PC/Mac marketing was what? Cool and hip, got it.  To bad it never lead to sales as the PC still dominates the sector.  The Surface 3 will sell very well and the only thing desperate is your article.  Why do people virtualize Windows and not the other way around?  Because with a PC you have every thing you need to do your work.  You know work?  Something that doesn’t include writing pretentious articles.



Agreed that the trade-in program really speaks of desperation. On the other hand, that salad looks pretty darned good….



John M, you didn’t link to the Peter Wayner article on Swift, FYI.

John Martellaro

mrmwebmax: Fixed.  Thanks!

Larry Rice

I don’t know quite what to make of the BusinessInsider chart headline.  You don’t have to get very deed into economic theory before someone points out that consumer interest in *everything* depends on the price.

How is this poll & chart even meaningful, when no one know what the device will be or do?

John Martellaro

Mr. Rice.  Exactly.


Hey…....let’s get real.
The Surface Pro 3 is a total piece of crap.

Give me a couple for free and when my garbage can is empty maybe I could put them in the bottom of the can to keep the wind from blowing it over.


I don’t think many people will take them up on the offer, but it may be more about thumbing their nose at Apple, and as a way to create a implied equivalence in the minds of shoppers,  than any hope it will boost sales directly.


“For Microsoft, it’s far better to build a product that people will stand in line for at oh-dark-thirty in the morning. Like an iWatch.”

Made my morning. Thanks Mr Martellaro


Re: richg13

Remember folks, let’s not feed the trolls.


vpndev, do you find it interesting that some first time posters are so negative for their first post ?

Almost makes me wonder if there’s a conspiracy at work….


In the meantime, please trade in your chef salad for a Chevy Silverado.

Jeremy Gothard

Wow, I can honestly say that I haven’t seen this much bias in my life.  This is worse than a political website. You don’t even try to offer any specs from the other side. The surface pro 3 is a solid device that can give the Macbook Air a run for its money.


@Jeremy- How? In price? In weight? in functionality? One could argue that functionality, but which one? tablet? It’s a heavy tablet and nearly helpless without its keyboard, but yeah, some functionality, but not like the iPad. As a computer? It’s more clunky than the Air, heavier, and spec-wise, it can be said to be on par at most, but like I said, it’s clunkier. My wife’s Air, which is smaller and lighter than the Surface fits into her purse, and she doesn’t know it’s there unless she needs it. but most of the time she has her iPad, which is also lighter and smaller than the Surface. I’m not sure that taken together the two are both smaller and lighter than the Surface (granted, she has the smaller of both items), so she could carry both, and have more functionality than the Surface, especially considering that the Surface as a tablet is only so-so, and as a computer, it’s not better than the Air. I don’t see any benefits other than that it’s running Windows 8. I suppose that, for some people, that makes it a win over the other two, but at physical trade-offs… and questionable financial ones. So, the only tangible benefit for the Surface is Win 8….


Oh, and thanks John for some fascinating reading. Sometimes your weekly debris provides much reading material, but this week, it was concise, and your own words summarized quite well. I got a mind-full without taking an hour to do it. I call that a great success. grin Thanks!


So, the only tangible benefit for the Surface is Win 8….

I’ve seen Win 8. I’ve worked with Win 8. I’ve helped users who are sick to death and absolutely hate Win 8.
Win 8 is not a benefit.
JonGI. Good points. The surface is a compromise hybrid that doesn’t do either the tablet our the PC functions well.

Bobby Edwards

Excuse me but didn’t Apple also offer a buy back program to get people to upgrade their iPhones? Was that also sign of desperation and buyer remorse, because they were now otherwise stuck with the old one. A buy back to move to something new is a long time tradition in this country, just maybe not in consumer electronics. Isn’t that how we sell cars , homes, airplanes, tools, machinery and all sorts of other items.


Losing money to move your product sounds like a clearance sale to remove remaining stock of something that’s EOL’d.


Great quotes from Jonny Evans’ piece:

Macs handle video better and faster than any other platform.


You see, unlike many of its competitors, Apple doesn’t simply throw technology at the wall to see what sticks; it seeks to craft advanced, yet simple, solutions that people actually love and use.

Perhaps this is partly why Apple detractors get so frustrated.



I concur with JonGI, some great reading material this week.

The Surface piece is so self-explanatory, as is the predictable non-solicited and corporate-sponsored defence around it, that it merits no further comment.

Rather, it’s the material around the so-called iWatch, some of the issues of which are chrystalised in Jonny Evans’ piece, that I’d prefer to address. At the risk of repetition, the fact that pundits and the press (and thus far, not Apple) are referring to Apple’s wearable as the iWatch constrains our imaginations as to the nature and range of the purported product’s purpose and feature range.  This is unfortunate.

The Piper Jaffrey poll is an excellent illustration of how asking the wrong question leads to an unhelpful answer and a likely a wildly incorrect set of conclusions. They asked people to set a target price, or more correctly value, on a device of the people’s own imagination. Not only will different respondents, in the absence of an objective device, have different and subjective concepts of what that is and how valuable it might be to them, but they are led down a narrow concept line by virtue of the ‘watch’ moniker. All indications are, including Evans’ piece on the Sportstec system, that Apple’s device will be heavily health focussed, and not simply constrained to fitness applications. What the lay public likely does not realise, unless they read the peer reviewed primary literature on sports medicine, preventive medicine and chronic disease management, are all of the ways in which life can be substantially improved in quality, and extended in duration at higher quality than at present, by monitoring and providing feedback to patients in the form of systems assessment and actionable information that can enable the individual to intervene in their own behalf at earlier stages of unwanted change, thereby forestalling disability or death. The more relevant question, therefore, in the Piper Jaffrey poll might have been, ‘What would you pay for a device that could add x number of years to your life or warn you if you are on track for myocardial ischaemia or stroke? What would you pay for a device that could tell you in advance that you are about to experience a medical emergency before it happens, instruct you what to do in that medical emergency to buy yourself some time while it notifies first responders of your crisis and location?’

Whether or not the so-called iWatch does this in its first iteration is irrelevant; this is where the technology is headed - personal devices dedicated to our personal well being and safety. If there is one thing that most people value, it’s staying alive and well; and for most of these people, as evidenced by their relative spending to buy mere days at the terminus of life, that value is priceless.

The point is that we appear to entering a second epoch in this post-PC era, which will be characterised, not by aggregating all of our personal and needed information around us at our convenience, as smartphones and tablets have done, but by monitoring our personal well being, and providing essential feedback for affecting quality of life, and intervening to save our lives when necessary and possible, as these new devices will do. The apps and interventions now under active development in medicine, health and yes, fitness, will not simply astound us, but protect us; and if we now wonder how we ever got along without smartphones, wait until we get a gander at what this new epoch will bring.


Let’s all keep in mind that Apple has NEVER (AFAIK) said they’re producing an iWatch, or any other wearable device. It’s all vaporware until it ships.

Donald Duvall

Any bets on whether the next iteration of the iPad copies the Surface Pro concept exactly?  In spite of Cook’s ridicule?

Any bets on whether the author will be singing its praises??

I’d give odds on both. smile


Curiosity recently got the better of me so I went down to a Microsoft store locally to have a first look at the Surface Pro 3.

Having previously been given a first-gen Surface RT from work, and being forced to use Windows 8.1, my expectations were quite low to begin with, as the RT was complete junk.

First impression upon picking up the Pro 3, with that new keyboard was “this feels weird”. Next thing I checked out was the new variable angle kickstand, which I discovered quickly doesn’t have enough pressure resistance. Even moderate touch pressure on the top of the device caused it to lean back lower and lower.

Then the thing that made me throw it on the counter and walk away, the display resolution. Windows is NOT optimized for a high DPI screen like this. When I checked the zoom setting, it was set to Recommended, but when I opened dialog boxes or MMC’s like Device Manager, everything appeared blurry beyond acceptable. It would appear Windows still isn’t a finished product for touch, and the Pro 3 feels like a beta device.

People here who praise the Pro 3 are off their rockers, as this device pales in comparison to a MBA.


Bobby, Apple pays people for used iPhones. That’s Apple’s own devices. Microsoft remarkably doesn’t even offer cash if you come to the store with a PC, only for a Mac. If you have a PC, you can however take it to any Apple Store, and Apple will recycle it for free.

Since Microsoft’s offer for an MBA is so bad, I wonder if store employees take these Macs, pay for them with their own cash, and sell them on eBay at a huge profit.

Lee Dronick

I stopped at my neighborhood Best Buy to take a look at the Surface Pro 3. Physically it feels robust enough, not tinny. Now there wasn’t a keyboard at the one on display so I can’t comment on that. In fact other than the feel of it I can’t comment on much as the one on display was locked and no employee was around who had the password. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get to the password screen, the home button didn’t seem to do much. I think that the Windows icon on the bezel was the home button, I may be wrong about that.

In a few days I am going to swing by the MicroSoft Store and see if an employee there can give me tour of the Surface. Until then I will withhold my judgement.

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