It makes sense that Microsoft, the company that created the world’s most popular operating system, would also make one of the best Windows detachable tablets, the Surface Pro. But something that makes far less sense, at least at first glance, is that Dell, which sells several Surface Pro competitors of its own, is now collaborating with Microsoft to offer the best deal on a Surface Pro.
The new Surface All Access plan works like this: you sign up for a Dell Preferred Account and get interest-free financing up to a predetermined limit for 24 months. Then, you visit the Microsoft Store either in person or online and assemble a bundle consisting of the Surface device and accessories of your choice as well as a two-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365.
The result is a single monthly fee with no down payments, akin to the financing that many Americans now use to buy their smartphones. And depending on the Surface All Access plan you choose, it can be a great deal. For example, a bundle with the Microsoft Surface Go, the Surface Go Signature Type Cover, and an Office 365 subscription is $25 per month, or a total of $600. That’s the same price you’d pay for a Surface Go and Signature Type Cover alone.
Packages are available for all of the current Surface devices that Microsoft sells, including the Surface Studio 2, the Surface Pro 6, and the Surface Laptop 2, each of which were refreshed this week at an event in New York City, where Microsoft also unveiled the Surface All Access concept. The first of the new devices don’t start shipping until Oct. 16.
The new plans represent an intriguing option for cash-strapped prospective Surface owners with good credit histories, and they’re essentially Microsoft’s answer to its persistent unbundling problem. Lenovo, Dell, and other manufacturers have long offered detachable Windows tablets that come with keyboard covers and in many cases digital pens included for no extra cost, while Microsoft has continued to charge extra.
The result is that while the $899 price of the Surface Pro 6 seems attractive at first glance, by the time you add the all-but-necessary keyboard cover, that climbs above $1,000. With an All Access plan, you may still pay the same amount, but you’ll pay it in interest-free installments and get Office 365 thrown in for no additional cost.
The concept isn’t revolutionary, of course, and Microsoft already offers a similar installment plan to businesses who buy its Surface products. But by far the most unique part of the All Access Plan is the fact that it’s powered by a Dell Preferred Account, which comes with incentives and discounts for purchases of Dell products. So if you’re not happy with your Surface, you’ve got a head start on paying for a competing product from Dell.