Here's Microsoft's brainstorm for boosting Surface tablet sales: Get people to trade in their iPads for them. Is this a Saturday Night Live skit or a real offer?
The offer on Microsoft's Web site says that consumers can bring in a "gently used iPad 2, 3, or 4" and in return get a minimum of $200 to be used towards a Surface tablet, or another product from the Microsoft store. Although the money can be used for any product, Microsoft has geared the deal heavily towards the Surface, highlighting the RT-based Surface and Surface Pro multiple times at the top of the offer page.
You won't know exactly how much you get until you bring your "gently used" iPad to a Microsoft store, though. As Computerworld's Gregg Keizer points out, "Because the buyback program isn't available online, it's impossible to tell what Microsoft will pay for an iPad before going to a store."
Microsoft has been trying to hit Apple hard to get people to buy Surface tablets rather than iPads. There's currently a ubiquitous TV ad campaign showing off what Microsoft believes are the superiority of its tablets over iPads, such as a keyboard, although the ad doesn't mention that the keyboard typically adds to the price of a Surface.
Microsoft certainly needs to do something to get some market share from Apple. IDC figures show the iPad with 32.5% share of the tablet market, with Windows tablets (including Windows RT) at 4.5%. The Surface RT disaster may have been a contributing factor to Ballmer leaving Microsoft, with the company writing down $900 million because of unsold RT inventory.
And the specs for both the RT-based and Windows 8.1-based Surface 2 doen't look particularly compelling, either. They're essentially the same as the existing hardware with a better processor and a few small bells and whistles, such as a better "kickstand." The new RT-based tablet is expected to sell for $499. That won't bring in many buyers.
As to how many people will likely trade in their iPads and put the money towards a Surface, that's anyone's guess. My guess is that it won't be many -- probably about as many as you can count on the right hand of Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown.