You know that things are bad at Microsoft (MSFT -0.13%) when even the software giant is willing to pay at least $200 for your iPad.

Wait a minute. That's actually pretty darn brilliant.

Microsoft is starting to offer at least $200 for trade-ins of Apple's (AAPL 1.08%) iconic iPad at many of its stand-alone stores, according to All Things Microsoft's Mary Jo Foley. 

The offer is limited to all but the original iPad generation, and it's not available online. It's also not available at the hundreds of Best Buy (BBY -1.07%) locations where Microsoft now has a "store in a store" presence. Microsoft knows better than to interfere with Best Buy's own platform-agnostic trade-in program. Best Buy had a similar $200 trade-in program for iPads earlier this summer. Microsoft's new promo will run through Oct. 27.

Walking into a participating Microsoft Store, and plunking down a used iPad in exchange for some serious store credit, is a pretty good idea. There's no saying what Microsoft will do with these secondhand tablets once it gets them, but the key takeaway here is that it will be converting an iOS user back to the Windows line of computing products. At the very worst, it satisfies a diehard gamer saving up for a new Xbox One later this year. At the very best, it creates a glut of used iPads on the second market, driving those prices lower, and limiting the appeal of new iPads.

It's not a coincidence that Microsoft is doing this just as it's gearing up to introduce the Surface 2 on Sept. 23. Folks getting rid of their Apple tablets may consider making the switch to Microsoft's fledgling platform. Developer support may not be the same, but a healthy trade-in allowance, and what could be aggressive pricing for a change, could really move the needle.

There are plenty of lonely iPads out there, and while there is also no shortage of outlets that will now accept trade-ins, Microsoft's competitive offer may be hard to resist. Trade-in pioneer Gazelle is offering just $150 for an entry-level iPad 2 in good condition. 

Sure, that's cash. It's better than a Microsoft Store gift card. However, if you're going to be buying a new Xbox, or possibly even giving the Surface a shot, there's an iPad collecting dust in your house that's just waiting to be used as bartering bait.

Microsoft's done a lot things wrong lately, but this one seems like a winner.