Microsoft announced an interesting coupon today: The company will pay $200 or more for your used iPad. There’s just one catch. The $200 comes in the form of a gift card to the Microsoft store.

That’s actually a great deal, if you’re looking to move to a Surface tablet.

You can use the coupon to help buy a Surface RT, which starts at $349, or a Surface Pro, which starts at a significantly more painful $799. Or since the coupon is good for “other cool products” at the Microsoft store, you can get all prepped for your upgrade to the powerful new Xbox One when it ships.

trade in ipad

But the interesting part is actually not the trade-in program. That makes perfect sense: Microsoft wants to promote its own tablets, which have seen less-than-spectacular sales results. And it’s a bold business move.

The interesting part is two words in the “How to redeem this offer” instructions: “Bring in your gently used iPad 2, 3, or 4 and get a minimum of a $200 gift card to the Microsoft store.”

Those two words, which dash the hopes of thousands who were planning to pick up a broken iPad for a couple of bucks at a local flea market, indicate that Microsoft has some kind of plan for the potentially tens of thousands of iPads that it might soon find itself in possession of. A plan, clearly, beyond simply destroying them.

And what would that plan be?

microsoft-surfaceMicrosoft, as a competing smartphone, tablet, and operating system vendor, can hardly turn around and sell them. That would contribute to Apple’s iPad market share and essentially buoy the market for iPads by adding yet another viable after-market sales outlet for the once-shiny iDevices … without even guaranteeing that Microsoft gets a Surface sale, since people can use the coupon for anything in the Microsoft store.

The options range from overseas sales — most likely, but still problematic — to selling them for parts and components, which would be challenging at best and not very profitable at worst … to simply selling them for their gold, silver, platinum, and other precious metals.

Those are unlikely options, because in the fine print, Microsoft says that the iPads should come with power cords and “cannot be password protected.”

Another clue comes — as do all good clues — in more of the fine print. The coupon program, it seems, is being run by CE Exchange, an electronics buyback and trade-in company. On that company’s website, CE Exchange says that “most electronic devices we receive … are refurbished … for repurposing and reuse.” Often, companies like this ship products overseas and sell them in developing countries at a significant discount.

I’m not sure how that’s going to help Microsoft long-term if the program just recycles old iPads to new owners. But you can bet that Microsoft has done the math and believes that it will help sell more Surface tabs as well as get a few iPads out of the North American market.

I asked Microsoft for comment, and the company said this is part of its Recycle for Rewards program, but did not say what would actually happen to the traded-in iPads.