A 32 GB Microsoft Surface RT tablet with a black Touch Cover keyboard sells for $599 on Microsoft's website. But if you're looking on Amazon, you wouldn't know it.
Amazon has various RT tablets on sale, from a variety of sellers who use the site as a storefront. They cost a lot more than Microsoft's price and often include misleading statements on "discounts," as Computerworld's Gregg Keizer first noticed.
For instance: a 32 GB Surface RT tablet with black Touch Cover sold by Tromo Electronics is listed for $690.54 on Amazon's site today. The Amazon page claims that the full retail price is really $899, so "you save $209.45." Interesting, since that's $90 more than if you bought it from Microsoft.
A 32 GB RT tablet without a keyboard sold by Bestdeal Tech is listed right now on Amazon for $566. The Amazon page claims that the retail price is $999: "You Save: $433.99 (43%)." But, again, Microsoft sells that tablet for $499.
The thing is, Microsoft doesn't sell its Surface tablets through retailers. It doesn't even let its enterprise reseller partners buy them in bulk and sell them en masse to Microsoft's business customers. So the most likely source for these tablets is sellers who buy them from a Microsoft store at full price and then raise the price before listing them on Amazon.
UPDATE: Microsoft just announced that Staples will carry the RT tablet as of December 12. Others retailers are expected to be announced soon.
These Amazon retailers are likely trying to cash in on the tablet's relative scarcity before Microsoft makes it available in more stores. Microsoft has said it would do so in mid-December, though it wouldn't name the stores.
It's fairly common for online retailers to sell scarce gadgets at jacked-up prices through Amazon and eBay, especially around the holidays.
But Microsoft isn't doing consumers any favors with its confusing array of options and pricing, which can obfuscate what you really should pay for a Surface.
Next month, it will get worse when Microsoft starts selling its Surface Pro, a more expensive variety. It runs the full version of Windows 8 software, and will be priced at $899 for 32 GB of memory and $999 for the 64 GB version, plus an extra $120 to $130 for keyboard covers.
Here's a snapshot of one of the tablets for sale.
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