Microsoft's Surface RT tablet hasn't exactly been a smashing retail hit but the tablet is about to get a much needed shot in the arm thanks to a limited-time offer for schools and colleges. Under the program, which will run between June 24 and August 31, the ARM-based slate will be available starting at $199 (or $249 with a touch keyboard cover) to K12 and higher education institutions in a number of countries.

That's a significant reduction from the normal starting price of $499 for the base 32GB model -- or $599 with the touch keyboard cover. Microsoft also provides the option to get the type cover instead for $289 (ERP $629).

The offer is available directly from Microsoft in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China (via Digital China), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Microsoft isn't specifying an order minimum or limit for institutions but is recommending that they get their orders early "while supplies last." The move comes less than a month since Microsoft announced it would be giving away 10,000 Surface RT units to teachers attending a recent education convention in San Antonio.

Whether this is a sign of the tablet's poor performance or Microsoft clearing up inventory ahead of a refreshed version is anyone's guess. The device was originally announced exactly one year ago but it didn't hit the retail market until October 2012, while its x86-based Pro variant arrived a few months later.