Despite rumors of Microsoft building three to five million tablets for its Surface RT launch, it appears that the company may have only shipped less than one million in the recent quarter. IDC says the figure is "just shy of 900,000 units into the channel," as Microsoft looks to compete with other tablet makers. "There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul," says IDC's Ryan Reith. "Reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best."
Microsoft has pumped millions into advertising campaigns for Windows 8 and its new Surface tablets, but the holiday execution was less than perfect. The slow reaction could be blamed on a number of factors, including a lack of retail presence and supply issues. Speaking to The Verge, Microsoft's Tami Reller admits that "there was more demand for touch devices from consumers than we were able to meet with supply," while looking to the company's retail expansion plans as a sign it's serious about the long term of Surface.
"We are absolutely betting big on both Best Buy and Staples..."
Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet goes on sale later this week, following a delay from the promised January release date. Reller says the company is "betting big" on Best Buy and Staples for Surface. Unusually, it appears that Microsoft may have delayed its Surface Pro release to ensure retailers were ready. "We wanted to make sure they felt great about the timing of Surface Pro availability," says Reller. "That's really what informed our dates."
Surface sales estimates from analysts and market researchers appear to be around the million mark, but Microsoft is staying mute on the actual figures. Similar to Amazon with its Kindle sales, Microsoft's latest quarterly report provided no break down for Surface sales, but that may change in the future. "Once we're out there we'll look more at how we provide some updates on how things are going," says Reller. "We need the opportunity to really get Surface out there in more broad distribution and then we'll talk more about things as we go forward."
"It's a big important step for Microsoft..."
Demonstrating just how crucial Surface is to Microsoft, Reller says "it's a big important step for Microsoft" to be in the first party hardware space with Surface. "We wanna make sure we do it right and focus on the right things." With speculation around a possible Surface Phone in future, coupled with a focus on devices from Ballmer, we'll likely see the Surface brand expand in 2013 to reveal just how important it is to the future of Microsoft.