Microsoft is borrowing from the cell phone industry's playbook and rolling out a financing and upgrade program for the company's family of Surface devices.
Just in time for the back-to-school shopping season, the new Surface Plus program essentially allows consumers to take home a Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, Surface Book or the Surface Studio all-in-PC today and pay for it using a 24 monthly installment plan at zero percent interest. In an example calculation on the Surface Plus website, buyers can purchase Microsoft's student-friendly Surface Laptop for $42 per month with payments totaling just over $1,000.
Financing aside, the Surface Plus also makes a case for applying a smartphone-like upgrade cycle to Windows devices. After 18 months, customers are eligible for an upgrade to the newest model, similar to programs used by network operators to encourage existing customers to upgrade to the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.
As always, it pays to read the fine print.
Financing is provided by WebBank and serviced by Klarna, according to Microsoft. The zero-percent rate is promotional and available only to qualified customers. Payments that stretch beyond the 24-month mark are subject to an annual percentage rate of 19.99 percent.
While they may not be gearing up for the start of school, Microsoft has a similar program for small and midsized businesses (SMBs). Also starting today, Microsoft is offering Surface Plus for Business, which builds on last year's Surface Membership program.
"Previously unavailable, customers can now finance a 55-inch Surface Hub in addition to the new Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, Surface Book, and Surface Studio to unlock the power of the group in their businesses," said Liz Hamren, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Marketing, in an Aug. 1 announcement. For the curious, the Surface Hub is available for $408.25 per month on a 24-month term.
Businesses can select from 18- or 30-month terms with device upgrade options that kick in after a set amount of time has passed—such as 12 months on a 24-term, for example. Customers can also add Office 365 for $8.25 per user per month with a Surface Plus for Business plan.
The new purchasing plan may help lift Surface sales. Although the device line has been a successful for Microsoft, largely on the strength of its business-oriented Surface Pro, sales have slipped two percent last quarter.
Meanwhile, other PC makers are countering the sleek and powerful Surface Pro with desirable devices of their own.
Although HP's Spectre X2 looks at first glasnce like a Surface Pro clone down to its magnetically-attached keyboard cover, it is winning accolades for its striking design, appealing specs and competitive pricing. Dell's Latitude 5285 is another 2-in-1 for IT buyers looking for a thinner and lighter alternative to the typical business laptop that blends tablet portability with a full-fledged Windows experience.