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.

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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.

Tags IT industryMobile/WirelessAppleconsumer electronicsNetworkingMicrosoftwirelesssmartphonesmobile

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)

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