"Microsoft is aiming at a two-pronged strategy here," said King. "The first is to bolster adoption of and reliance on its Office productivity suite and apps, which are under some pressure from the wide popularity of Chromebooks and Google Docs. The second is to shore up and raise sales of the company's Surface tablets and laptops, which have suffered some declines in the past few quarters."
Those reduced sales have significantly impacted Surface margins and make it hard to continue maintaining product development for the company, he said. "Apple is in a similar situation with Chromebooks and has ratcheted up efforts to regain the position it once had among students and educators. In fact, Microsoft's no-interest payment plans look a lot like Apple's promotions in the 1980s and 1990s."
The interest rate jump to 19.99 percent after 24 months, however, will likely discourage long-term deals, he said.
What's not known yet is how the new financing offerings from Microsoft might interest cash-strapped schools and school districts as they buy new devices for students and teachers, said King. Chromebooks have been cheap to buy and use and have improved markedly over the years, making it tough for Microsoft to compete on price.
"Neither Microsoft nor Apple have as much of a value play as Google does, so it'll be interesting to see how many and what kind of schools and districts are attracted to these offerings," said King.