Can Microsoft boost the sale of Windows tablets with a $99 price sale? The company is trying to find out.
On Monday, the Windows 8.1 Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet will go on sale for $99 -- a one-day sale price, only one per customer for the first 20 buyers at Microsoft's brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. This is a $200 discount from the regular price for the 8-inch tablet, and is the first of the company's 12 days of deals promotion that features a sale of a Microsoft-related product every day.
After the first 20 buyers, the tablet's price is $199, still $100 less than regular, and continues at that sticker until there are no more units at that outlet. Microsoft has said that some stores may have under a dozen units in stock.
Online, the first 100 sales of the tablet will be priced at $99, which then becomes $199 as long as supplies last. Once the inventory is restocked, the price reverts to its regular $299. Pricing does not include taxes or shipping, and, in Canada, the sale is only available at retail stores.
While the numbers of tablets sold at these prices will obviously not move Microsoft's market share, it is attracting attention at a time when the category dominance by Apple's iPad has begun to decline and other brands are moving up. According to stats released by industry research firm IDC on Tuesday, Apple's share of the tablet market is 35 percent in 2013, down from 45 percent last year and heading for another five point drop by 2017.
IDC is predicting that Microsoft-based tablets will increase to more than 10 percent by 2017, and that Android tablets will drop two percentage points from their 60.8 percent current market share. Microsoft's Surface tablets have moved from under 1 percent last year to 3.4 percent in 2013. Retail research firm InfoScout reports that the Microsoft Surface 32 GB tablet, at $199, was the top item sold on Black Friday.
The question is whether such tactics as sale promotions can help the company get its market share higher than 10 percent in three years?
Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Tablet Tracker, said in a statement that, although we're already halfway through the holiday quarter, and although "there have been some relatively high-profile launches from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, we've yet to see the widespread availability of these devices, making it difficult for Windows to gain share during this crucial period."
Additionally, Microsoft continues to receive criticism for selling three different versions of Windows for tablets -- version 8 and version 8.1 for Intel x86 processors, plus RT for ARM-based tablets.
Meanwhile, it is not uncommon to find Android tablets for under $100. On Black Friday, for instance, Walmart sold the HP 7-inch Mesquite tablet for $89, and now that retailer is selling the same Android 4.1 tablet with Intel Atom processor for $99, $30 below the list price.
Tablets with less than stellar specs, or by lesser known brands, can commonly be found for under $100, such an RCA 7-inch tablet or the Nextbook 7-inch, both sold by Walmart for $69.