Worst prize ever? Microsoft offers free Surface RTs to students who use Bing


We hope this school has outdoor Wi-Fi...

Like some bastardized version of a Chuck E Cheese, Microsoft is now giving kids credit for using Bing, then asking them to spend their rewards on something that they probably don’t really want or need: a Surface RT tablet. 

In an effort to make some inroads in the growing education market, and take on Google, Microsoft has launched Bing for Schools, a new ad-free version of its search engine with school-friendly content filtering (sorry kids, no porn in the classroom) and privacy protection built into it. The program kicks off today with “800,000” U.S. students around the country.

Because Bing isn’t incentive enough to get schools onboard, Microsoft is setting up a rewards program. The prize: Microsoft’s biggest hardware failure since the Zune. K-12 classrooms, teachers, parents, or anyone who uses Bing for Schools will earn Bing Rewards that they can use to get free Surface RT tablets for schools. It takes 30,000 credits to get a Surface RT, which Microsoft claims is the equivalent of about 60 people signing into Bing every day for a month. At that rate, a classroom of 20 who Bing their days away could earn a Surface RT in 3 months. But since there’s a waiting period of 2 months for delivery, it would be 5-6 months before they’d get a single, year+ old Surface RT. The Bing Rewards site says that “125 parents searching for a year” could supply an entire classroom with Surfaces. Unfortunately, even a classroom of 30 kids only has 60-ish parents and a teacher. So all 90-100 of them would have to slave away at their computers (assuming they all have computers at home) for a year to equip the 2014/2015 class year with 2012 Surface RTs. 

Microsoft already offers steep discounts to schools interested in the Surface RT, and fairly large discounts to anybody else generous enough to buy one. We liked the Surface RT when it came out last year, but noted how Windows RT was poorly marketed and ill conceived. While it can be a decent tablet, most people will find that the Surface RT does not meet their expectation for what a Windows tablet should do. Microsoft had to admit as much when it wrote off $900 million in losses due to the failure of the Surface and Windows RT earlier this sumer.

Failed tablets often get steep discounts toward the end of their life as manufacturers try to rid themselves of excess inventory. BlackBerry gave away 25,000 PlayBook tablets to anyone willing to develop for its new BB 10 operating system last year. And back in 2011, HP had a fire sale, selling the $500 TouchPad for just $100.

Will dangling a Surface RT in front of students, parents, and teachers get a lot of classrooms to choose Bing over Google? We’ll have to see, but we wouldn’t bet on the Surface RT accomplishing much of anything, at this point. Microsoft may soon find that it can’t even give the Surface RT away.

Updated by Jeffrey Van Camp: Added in some more math on the Bing Rewards program.

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