Microsoft kicks off iPad buyback deal in latest effort to juice Surface sales

Wants customers to give up their iPads and switch to Surface; will offer minimum of $200 per tablet

Microsoft will pay at least $200 for used iPads made by rival Apple, and in return issue credit that customers can use to buy one of the company's Surface tablets.

On its Microsoft Store website, Microsoft outlined the buyback deal: It will accept "gently used" iPad 2, and third- and fourth-generation iPads -- the latter two models launched in 2012 -- pay a minimum of $200 for each tablet, and issue the funds as a gift card good for purchases at the Microsoft Store.

Customers must bring their used iPads to a Canadian or U.S. Microsoft retail outlet -- the program's not supported online -- where a sales person will evaluate the tablet and decide on the dollar amount. Microsoft has approximately 70 stores in the U.S.

Apple's 7.9-in. iPad Mini is not eligible for trade-in.

"Microsoft Store gift-card value ... is subject to Microsoft's discretion and manager approval," the website said. "All trade-ins are final. Limit 1 per customer."

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. Re-commerce vendors such as Gazelle and NextWorth pay between $150 and $240 for a working 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad, with the lower value for the 2011 iPad 2 and the upper-end for the newest fourth-generation "Retina"-equipped device.

Buyback companies pay more for iPads with more storage space or those equipped for accessing the Internet over a mobile carrier data network.

They also pay cash for the Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets made by Microsoft. NextWorth quoted $187 for a 32GB Surface RT and $338 for the entry-level 64GB Surface Pro, or 54% and 43% of the list price, respectively. Microsoft's tablets start at $349 for the Surface RT, the struggling model powered by Windows RT, a subset of the more powerful Windows 8 that can run only so-called "Metro" apps. The Surface Pro, which relies on Windows 8 and can run legacy software like the desktop version of Office 2013, starts at $799.

The Redmond, Wash. company has cut prices of both models in the last two months to account for over-optimistic inventory plans and to clear the decks before Sept. 23, when it will unveil new models for the holiday selling season.

The resulting gift cards from an iPad trade-in do not have to be used for the purchase of a Microsoft Surface, but can be redeemed for anything Microsoft sells in its stores, including third-party PCs.

The deal also offers a call for action to iPad owners who have been swayed by Microsoft's television campaign that compare various features of the Surface RT with the 9.7-in. iPad, which starts at $499 with 16GB of storage space.

Microsoft's iPad buyback program expires Oct. 27. Apple is expected to roll out new tablets this year, and if it follows last year's practice -- when it also unveiled a new iPhone in September, as it did earlier this week -- the most likely introduction date is Tuesday Oct. 22.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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