"It's like a virus," he says. "If I give this device to IT people, and the start using in and recommend it in their own business, it's just a matter of time before the boss says, "What's that? I want one."
Dionel Rodriguez, who's in IT support at Lender Processing Services in Florida, says the deal looks like a bold attempt to drum up interest in Surface and grab the attention of iPad customers. "If [Surface RTs] were $99 in stores they would sell like hotcakes," he says.
Nathan Heusdens, also with LPS, already had a Surface RT but bought another for his wife and thinks the promotion will serve Microsoft well. "Once it's in people's hands, they will like it," he says.
Dino Mehmedagic, a developer for Stein Mart, says getting the Surface RT into the hands of professionals will help dispel the idea that it is "like a big phone only lacking a number of features." Purchasers will show them to friends and the result will be word-of-mouth marketing among an influential buying group.
Kyle Comboy, a systems administrator at CSC, says he thinks Microsoft might be using the sale as a way to unload some inventory ahead of the expected Surface hardware upgrade later this year.
But putting it in the hands of IT pros also ups the chances that businesses will embrace them or similar devices that are based on Windows 8 for their bring-your-own-devices programs. "If you get them in the hands of IT professionals it gives them a better chance to put them through their paces to see how they would fare as BYOD devices," Comboy says.
Kathrine Hale, a software developer at Ajilon Australia, says the company is looking more at mobility and the Surface devices will help her assess their value in that environment.
From Microsoft's perspective, getting influential professionals to use Windows 8 devices might light a fire under Microsoft partners to develop more products for Windows 8. "If [Microsoft] gets more developers on Surfaces, developers can get more Microsoft partners to work with us," she says.
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