Microsoft will give those at next week's Professional Developer Conference a chance to do more than just write software for the Surface. They'll also have the opportunity to buy a developer version of the machine.
The good news is that PDC attendees will get a 10 percent discount. However, the bad news is the machine will set them back $13,500 even with the discount.
The cost for developers is higher because it includes five software developer kit licenses. However, even commercial customers are paying $12,500 for the Surface. That's above the $5,000 to $10,000 initial cost that Microsoft said to expect when it announced the Surface back in May 2007.
"We're not far off from our initial target," Surface computing unit general manager Brad Carpenter said in an interview on Thursday, "but we would like to get the price down. Over time, with economies of scale and (higher sales volume), the prices will go down."
Its price tag was among the reasons that Robbie Bach, Microsoft's entertainment division president, thought about killing the Surface as a commercial product, although it survived with Bill Gates as a strong backer of the effort.
Still, even if they can't afford one, developers will get plenty of face time with the Surface at PDC. There's a session on developing for the Surface as well as three hands-on labs.
As first noted by CNET News, developers at the PDC will be the first to get their hands on a new software developer kit for the Surface. Microsoft had been limiting developer access to a handful of pre-selected partners.
Not all of the 6,000 developers at the show will be able to get the newly-available software developer kit, Carpenter said. Microsoft is capping things at about 1,200, but that should cover at least all those who attend one of the sessions, he said.
Microsoft is also planning a "scavenger hunt" at PDC, where developers can place a special tag on each of the 16 Surface units scattered throughout the show. Even though the number of Surface machines in commercial use is low, Carpenter said that now is the time to get a broader range of developers writing programs for the product.
"We believe the opportunities are endless," Carpenter said. "By reaching out to the developer community at PDC, we want to tap into their innovation, their creativity."
Microsoft also will talk at the show about the overlap between developing for Surface and developing multitouch applications for Windows. Windows 7 will support multitouch gestures, though there will be some divergence between the Windows 7 and Surface implementations.
The developer paths will converge more with Windows Presentation Foundation version 4, "which will be a little after Windows 7," Carpenter said.