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

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.

The Tech News Debris for the Week of June 23


At InfoWorld this week, Peter Wayner launches a great article with: "What is it about being a rich corporation? After the private jets and the gleaming headquarters comes the new programming language. Now Apple has followed in the path of Microsoft (C#), Sun (Java), and Google (Dart, Go) to offer us Swift, a language with a C-like syntax...."

Mr. Wayner continues, in a three segment article, to provide an excellent introduction to the Swift programming language. The article also includes a link to Apple's free eBook (on page 3) that introduces Swift. If you want a 30,000 ft view of this new language without being bogged down in detail, this is a great place to start.

Mike Elgan writes, "The bring-your-own-wearable (BYOW) movement won’t be like the smartphone revolution. It will be much faster and much less gradual—and it will start this year." Mr. Elgan looks at some of the business issues with wearables in "Is Your Organization Ready for BYOW?"

Jonny Evans ponders the possibilities for iWatch and a coach to monitor the vital signs of an athlete during team competitions and make, for example, timely substitutions in order to optimize the performance of the team. It's a good read: "Apple's World Cup soccer story hints at iWatch possibilities."

In February, I wrote that Barnes & Noble had some serious problems with its Nook reader tablet. "Barnes & Noble Should Shut the Book on Nook." The company had fallen behind the tech giants Samsung and Apple in the tablet technology because it didn't have the in-house technical and manufacturing expertise to compete toe-to-toe. I suggested the company focus on a great online bookstore and a truly great app front end that runs on any tablet.

Instead, Barnes & Noble has elected to call on Samsung for some assistance in order to stay in the hardware game. "Samsung, Barnes & Noble team up on tablet design." My prediction now is that Samsung will take the money from Barnes & Noble until the bookseller decides that turning its fate over to another company is also a bad idea. The whole affair illustrates the danger of falling too far behind in today's high tech competition. The Surface Pro 3, mentioned above, is another example of that.

Finally, I saw a chart at Business Insider that summarizes some research from Piper Jaffray. The question was, what would prospective customers pay for an iWatch? The problem with this kind of survey, as I see it, is that the very question depends on a very hazy customer perception of what the iWatch will actually be like.

Most of the appreciation for the iWatch today probably derives from current products with a nebulous notion of how Apple might improve on them. For example the Samsung Gear series, the LG "G" smartwatch, or the Pebble.

The problem as I see it is that a casual vision of what Apple's iWatch will be like doesn't take into account the engineering resources of Apple, the time and research money it has spent to date on this product, the FDA expertise, plus physicians and jewelry advisors — all combined with Apple's unique ability to surprise us with a delightful product that we suddenly realize we desperately need.

Image Credit: Business Insider and Statista.

Once the iWatch ships and customers size up what the product can do for them, their feelings about what they want to pay will, I believe, shift dramatically upwards. Even though a 16 GB iPhone is bought on contract for $199, customers know that its real value is in the $550+ range and that a, perhaps, $349 iWatch provides great value for the money. So I am not very strongly influenced by this Piper Jaffray poll.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page 1) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.