May 30, 2013, 12:07 PM — Microsoft yesterday announced that Surface Pro tablets it will start selling in Japan on June 7 will come with a fully-functional copy of Office, a bundle one analyst said hints at a change in Microsoft's sales strategy for its homegrown hardware.
Both Japanese configurations of the Surface Pro -- one with 128GB of storage space, another with 256GB -- will include Office Home & Business 2013, Microsoft confirmed Wednesday. The productivity suite will be a fully-licensed version, not a time-limited trial.
According to a press release issued by Microsoft Japan, the 128GB Surface Pro will sell for 99,800 yen, including taxes, or $986 at current exchange rates. The 256GB model will cost 119,800 yen, or approximately $1,184.
The tablets sold in Japan will not be the first from Microsoft to bundle Office: More than a month ago the company launched a special edition Surface Pro in China that included Office Home & Student 2013. But the Japanese configurations will be the first to come with a commercial-use edition of Office -- one that can legally be used for work and in the workplace -- and on a tablet powered by Windows 8 Pro. The special Chinese Surface Pro bundle relied on Windows 8, the consumer-grade OS.
Microsoft has also included Office Home & Student RT with all Windows RT-powered tablets, its own Surface RT among them. Like the Surface Pro in China, however, Office on a Surface RT is not licensed for work, and lacks the Outlook email client. Outlook is included with Home & Business 2013.
Surface Pro tablets now sold in the U.S. come with a one-month trial of Office 365 Home Premium, Microsoft's rent-not-buy subscription service for the suite. That, too, is for personal use only, and not licensed for work.
The addition of Office Home & Business to the Surface Pro in Japan sparked speculation from analysts.
"I think it's possible this means Microsoft will do the same elsewhere to firm up the footprint [of the Surface Pro] in the market," said Ezra Gottheil, of Technology Business Research. "After all, the cost of goods for software is zero."
Wes Miller, of Directions on Microsoft, echoed Gottheil. "Definitely possible," he said of Microsoft tossing Office Home & Business 2013 into all Surface Pro tablets. "This could reflect a different angle on selling the Surface Pro."
Both analysts noted that the move would be in keeping with Microsoft's apparent strategy to use Office as a prime selling point for its Surface line, and Windows 8-powered tablets in general.