You’ve grown accustomed to paying off your smartphone each and every month. Are you ready to finance your computer the same way?
Along with the announcement of several new Surface PCs – and even a new set of Surface headphones – Microsoft on Tuesday in New York, unveiled what for many of you might be an easier way to pay for the computers, through a Surface All Access payment program that starts at $24.99 a month for 24 months.
That monthly sum buys you an interest-free Surface Go bundle. While it is more than you will typically pay for the computer outright, you do get some important add-on benefits thrown in, including the Type Cover keyboard that is otherwise an optional accessory, plus a two-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365. Also part of the deal, Microsoft says, is what the company refers to as “world class protection and support.”
There is no upfront cost, and you pay zero interest during the term of the agreement.
Can you upgrade like a phone? Not yet.
The Microsoft people I talked to hinted that, in a year or so, you might be able to upgrade to whatever version of a Surface computer that comes next – just like what happens these days under some smartphone financing options. Emphasis on "might." There was no formal acknowledgment that such a trade-in plan is going to happen.
The All Access program isn’t entirely new for Microsoft; it offers a similar financing deal for Xbox customers.
You can finance Microsoft’s more expensive computers under All Access as well, including the latest models introduced at the Manhattan press event. These include bundles for the Surface Pro (starting at $47.87 per month), Surface Laptop ($46.63), Surface Book 2 ($54.96), and Surface Studio ($150.79).
Under such plans, you have 30 days to return the various Surface products to a Microsoft Store without any obligation, but the two-year Office 365 subscription is non-refundable. Devices come with a standard one-year warranty.
The All Access plan is offered by WebBank and serviced by Dell Financial Services, through a revolving line of credit.
There is fine print to be aware of. Outstanding balances at end of promotional period are subject to credit terms that range from 19.24 percent to 29.99 percent variable APR; the minimum interest charge is $2.
Tech industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy believes All Access pricing will "revitalize the premium end of the personal computer market.”
Microsoft's latest Surface gear
As for its latest product introductions, Microsoft is touting the 8th generation Intel Quad Core processor on the $899 on up Surface Pro 6, which is says will translates to a machine that is 67 percent faster than the previous model. It weights 1.7 pounds and promises 13.5 hours of battery life.
The new Surface Laptop 2 also benefits from the same processor – in this case, Microsoft claims a computer that is 85 percent faster, while retaining, the company says, 14.5 hours of battery life. It starts at $999 and comes with a new matte black finish.
But the absence of a USB-C port gives critics something to gripe about.
Surface chief Panos Panay defends Microsoft’s decision to leave the point out, saying it is not something Surface customers have been demanding and decisions about what to put in or take out come down to balance. “When it’s needed, I will go there for sure, full conviction,” he says.
The new Surface Studio 2 also gets a performance refresh, with next generation graphics and a handsome screen that Microsoft claims as 38 percent brighter. With a $3,499 starting price, the computer as before is aimed at well-heeled creative types.
Microsoft's Panos Panay shows off new Surface Headphones. (Photo: Microsoft)
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s new Surface Headphones ($349) aren’t coming until later in the year. Microsoft's talking points for the headphones are around 15 hours of battery life, easy access to the Cortana assistant and fully adjustable active noise cancellation, which you can tune up to 13 levels merely by rotating a dial on the ear cup.
Obviously consumers have a lot of choice in the headphone space, so how Microsoft prevails here is an open question.
There's a new Windows 10 update, too
The latest hardware coincides with the now available Windows 10 October 2018 update, in which Microsoft is going further than it ever has in having your Windows PC make nice with your smartphone. On the Android side, that’s accomplished through a new Your Phone app that promises instant access on your Windows 10 PC to texts and photos on your smartphone, which can then be pasted into a document on the computer.
You can also send texts from your computer via your Android phone. That's not something you can do from a Windows 10 PC via an iPhone, at least for now. As an iPhone user, you can can surf the web on your phone, and send the webpage to your PC to pick up you left off.
Microsoft also announced that the Timeline feature that was introduced on Windows 10 PCs last April – the goal is to make it simpler find the files and sites you’ve been working on across your phone, computer and tablet – is now available in preview mode (through the Microsoft Launcher) on your Android phone, with a version for iOS in the works as well.