August 2, 2017 // 10:20 a.m.
Microsoft is officially taking its 'Windows as a Service' plans to the next level, announcing the Surface Plus programme which aims to convince users to purchase their hardware on finance and upgrade it every 18 months.
Described by Liz Hamren, corporate vice president of device marketing at Microsoft, in the launch announcement as 'flexible financing options designed to help more people and businesses take advantage of the power of Surface,' the new programme is effectively the combination of zero-percent financing and an 18 month upgrade cycle. Under the new Surface Plus programme, Hamren explains, buyers are able to pick up a Surface laptop on a 24-month finance plan with zero percent interest charged, then upgrade the device to the latest model every 18 months.
The numbers, of course, are firmly skewed in Microsoft's favour. When a user upgrades to the latest model after 18 months, Microsoft requires 'the return of the functional device to Microsoft in good condition' - meaning you've made 18 months of payments on a device you no longer own. The upgrade, meanwhile, is sold to you at full price under the same 24 month interest-free finance agreement as the original - meaning you're almost certain to save money by selling your original Surface on the second-hand market then buying the new device on a fresh contract compared to taking Microsoft up on its upgrade offer.
The finance agreement, too, needs careful attention. The interest free period is described by Microsoft as 'promotional' and applies only to accounts with financing service Klarna held in good standing up to the 24-month period. Miss a payment or otherwise fail to have paid the balance off at the end of the 24 month period and the interest jumps to 19.99% APR.
At the same time, Hamren announced Surface Plus for Business. Based on the consumer Surface Plus programme, the business variant allows for more flexibility - including 18, 24, or 30-month financing terms and a reduction to 12 months for upgrade eligibility on the 18-month contract - and has no interest applicable. It also covers the full Surface range, including the company's Surface Hub and Surface Studio families.
Presently, both the Surface Plus and Surface Plus for Business programmes are US exclusives. Microsoft has not stated when, or if, it plans to roll the programmes out internationally.