It's been like pulling teeth to get the Microsoft Surface team to talk about what's going on with Surface Pro supply, beyond the most basic statements.
Microsoft made the Intel-based Surface Pros commercially available starting February 9. Within minutes -- or even less in some cases -- the 128 GB Surface Pros were sold out at Microsoft brick-and-mortar stores, Microsoft's online store, Best Buy and Staples. In some cases, 64 GB models sold out, as well.
I've asked a few times in the past couple of days about what caused the supply problems and when there would be more devices in stock in the U.S. and Canada. Until February 12, the answer I received, via company spokespeople, was "“We are pleased that the demand for the Surface Pro is so great. Our focus is to get ordered Surface units delivered to our customers as quickly as possible.”
Not so helpful.
But during a Twitter chat on February 12, Panos Panay, the head of the Surface team, provided a few more details about availability.
"We are shipping more 64gb now to BBY, Staples, MS Store and online. 128gb at BBY, MS Stores by Saturday."
A number of participants on the chat asked Panay and team why there were seemingly so few Surface Pros available. None of the Microsoft officials on the chat responded to any of those questions -- or to questions about availability of Surface Pro in countries other than the U.S. and Canada. Microsoft execs have said previously that they'd have more to say about broader Surface Pro availability in the coming weeks.
It's interesting Panay didn't say Staples would be getting more 128 GB Surface Pros. I've been hearing scuttlebutt that Staples might have intentionally decided against ordering many Surface Pros because of soft demand for Surface RTs. I asked Microsoft and Staples both for comment on this. A Microsoft spokesperson referred me to the "demand for Surface Pro is so great" statement again. A Staples spokesperson said: "We don’t publicly discuss internal plans."
Looking at the Staples.com site, there is a difference between the listings for the two Surface Pro listings. Here's the 128GB page, which says the devices can be shipped for pick-up to stores, but otherwise are orderable online only:
And here's the 64 GB Pro page on the Staples site, which does specify these devices are also available in brick and mortar stores:
The Surface Pro 128 GB page doesn't mention any possibility at all of store availability -- beyond the option of paying to have devices shipped to stores -- while the 64 GB version does.
Update (February 13): One contact of mine has a different theory about why Staples isn't getting any of the 128 GB Surface Pros. He said he's heard Staples never carries the high-end model of any PCs or tablets. I have no idea whether this is true.
Many potential Surface Pro customers were frustrated because Microsoft decided against taking pre-orders for the devices, leading them to assume there'd be sufficient supply when they went to physical stores in the U.S. and Canada to get them. I've heard from a number of readers that retail employees at Microsoft Stores, Best Buys and Staples seemingly had no idea how many Surface Pros they had in stock and/or when they'd get more.
I've heard in the past couple of days that some Surface Pro purchasers have been able to reserve Surface Pro devices, but only by paying $50 for a Best Buy gift card.
The Surface Pro is the second member of the Microsoft Surface PC/tablet family. It is based on an Intel Core i5 processor and gets between four to five hours of battery life, on average. Pricing starts at $899 for the 64 GB model. Some believe the 64 GB model is less popular because it provides only 32 GB of storage. The 128 GB model, which starts at $999 provides 96 GB of user-available storage.
Windows PC retailers like Best Buy and Staples are increasingly in the same place bookstores are. They are becoming a place for users to come in and kick tires -- or test drive new devices -- before buying them online. I'm sure this is just one more thing that contributes to supply-chain/stocking problems.
Update No. 2 (February 13): The Surface Blog has a new post about availability.
It now sounds like only "some" 128 GB Pro units will be available by the end of the week. From the February 13 blog post:
"We are shipping 128GB SKU later this week to retailers, with some units available by the end of the week. Our priority (and that of our retail partners) is to fulfill orders from customers who made a reservation first."
For those looking to get 128 GB Surface Pros in Canada from the few Microsoft Stores, Future Shops and Best Buys, there may be an additional delay, according to the post:
"Canada is following a similar timeline but may take an extra few days to start arriving."
Update No. 3 (February 13): In what may be indicative of supply-chain issues (or just a strange one-off mistake), Surface Pro customer Andrew Hill notes he received his 128 GB Pro in a 64 GB Pro box from his Best Buy store in Missouri. He has posted pictures to his SkyDrive showing the discrepancy.