Microsoft's Surface All Access a bet that hardware as a service can work (with an Office 365 assist)

Microsoft Surface All Access is another attempt that a leasing/subscription model can be appealing for mainstream hardware customers.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Microsoft unveiled its Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Studio 2 and another attempt to sell its hardware with a subscription model--this time with bet that Surface hardware plus Office 365 will change buying behavior.

While Microsoft's new systems garnered attention as well as new headphones, perhaps the more interesting item was a program called Surface All Access. For context, Surface All Access replaced a program called Surface Plus, which was a financing effort that ended Aug. 31, to move more Surface devices. Surface Plus replaced Surface as a Service.

Add it up and Microsoft is developing a regular Surface financing cadence. Every year, Microsoft makes a new attempt of selling Surface devices as a subscription bundle. If at first you don't succeed...

In any case, Microsoft's Surface All Access appears to be a bet that Office 365 bundled with hardware will be appealing along with Windows 10. The program is offered through Dell Financing and rhymes with the financing models deployed by telecom providers. Given that smartphones are just as pricey as laptops--and more so in some cases--a 24-month financing option makes sense.

The Surface Pro 6 starts at $899, the Surface Laptop 2 starts at $999 and the Surface Studio 2 at $3,499.

Also: Microsoft Office 365 for business: Everything you need to know

Will consumers and small businesses bite? It's unclear. Surface All Access faces a bit of a cultural issue in that folks are used to buying and owning PCs. Desktop as a service models haven't exactly taken off in the enterprise so the consumer and SMB hurdle may be even higher.

Enter Office 365. Given that Office 365 will run you $10.99 a month as an individual, a joint Surface-Office bundle starting at $24.99 may not be a stretch. However, that $24.99 price is for a Surface Go and Office 365 bundle.

Also: Microsoft's refreshed Surface Pro, Laptop and Studio: New specs, pricing, availability | Microsoft begins rolling out Windows 10 October 2018 Update | Windows 10 October 2018 Update: How to get it, how to avoid it

The monthly rates go up from there. Consider:

  • A Surface Book 2 bundle starts at $54.96 a month with no money down and support. The Dell Preferred Account service underpins the subscriptions.
  • The Surface Pro Bundle starts at $47.87 a month along with your choice of Type Cover and Office 365.
  • A Surface Laptop bundle starts at $46.63 a month.
  • And the Surface Studio bundle starts at $150.79 a month.
  • Aside from the Surface Studio bundle, which is available Nov. 15, these Surface All Access bundles are available Oct. 16.

Customers of Surface All Access have to apply for a Dell Preferred Account, choose a bundle and then select Dell Preferred Account at checkout.

Will Surface All Access work? Maybe. If not, Microsoft is likely to have a new plan next year. Microsoft is convinced that a leasing and/or subscription approach will work for its hardware. And Microsoft historically has been quite persistent.


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