Microsoft to push Surface tablets through retailers in two-phase rollout?

Microsoft to push Surface tablets through retailers in two-phase rollout?

Summary: Could Microsoft begin selling its Surface RT devices through non-Microsoft retail stores 'within days,' as one Windows watcher is hearing?


Chalk this one up as a one-source rumor. But the source is supposedly pretty solid, according to my Windows Weekly cohost Paul Thurrott.


Thurrot said he was told by one of his most trusted sources that Microsoft is poised to begin making its own Surface RT devices -- the ARM-based pablets/TCs running the Windows RT operating system -- available through channels beyond Microsoft's own brick-and-mortar and online stores. And this is supposedly happening sooner rather than later, he blogged on December 7.

Phase one of the rollout will happen in markets where there are no Microsoft brick-and-mortar stores, meaning everywhere but the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. In select countries (no word right now as to which ones), Microsoft plans to alow retail chains to sell the Surface RT devices. Thurrott said this is going to happen "within days."

(It's worth noting there is one non-Microsoft retailer already selling Surfaces directly. That is Suning in China.)

Phase two of the rollout is slated for January 2013, when Microsoft is going to expand distribution of its Surface RT and its Surface Pro devices (the ones based on Intel's Core i5 and running Windows 8) to include major retailers, including Best Buy and Staples, according to Thurrott's sources. The Surface Pros are slated to be available starting in January 2013.

Microsoft intentionally limited initial distribution of its Surfaces supposedly so as not to hurt its PC- and tablet-making partners. (I'd think component/parts availability and time needed to ramp up manufacturing and distribution probably played into this decision, too.)

When the Redmondians first shared publicly its Surface plans in June 2012, officials stated that "both (Surface tablets) will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores." Officials declined to comment on when and whether Microsoft planned to broaden distribution of its Surfaces. I've asked again today to see if the Softies will change their no comment on this and will add anything I get back to this post.

Update: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors and speculation," a spokesperson said on December 7 in response to my request for comment.

There have been reports -- again, about which Microsoft officials have declined to comment -- that Microsoft has not sold as many Surfaces as it expected to. Given how few Microsoft Stores exist, even when holiday pop-up stores are included in the total, it wouldn't be all that surprising that the devices haven't been flying off shelves.

Will broader distribution, if and when this happens, be enough to boost supposedly lagging sales -- especially during the crucial pre-Christmas buying season? Given how few Windows 8 and Windows RT touch tablets are in the market at present, it couldn't hurt....

Update No. 2: @jmanici says that the Surface RT already is listed on one French retailer's site with delivery beginning December 11. He also notes the site is offering the Surface RT for 10 to 15 Euros ($13 to $19 cheaper) than Microsoft's own stores.


Topics: Microsoft Surface, Tablets, PCs


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • A nice start but...

    what I would really like to see is an affordable tablet (for me). Maybe a 7 inch Surface for $300 or even a smaller Surface RT sans Office for $250 or something. That would have me pulling out my wallet.
    • Agreed.....

      ...not everyone needs Office and smaller tablet I am sure will be coming.
      • and that could be with more Xbox integration

        Ram U
        • Surface has no chance. Another epic fail.

          Microsoft doesn't get it.

          The most woeful management of any large company. Microsoft doesn't understand its own market.

          It has to succeed in phones first before tablets. That's a golden rule that Microsoft hasn't yet realised. It can't win trying to use its desktop PC monopoly to force users onto its Metro interface in the hope they'll also want a Microsoft phone. That top-down approach doesn't work. Without a viable phone ecosystem, it won't succeed in tablets. It needs to be in phones first, because that's where the service provider can learn the most about the user.

          So, it doesn't matter what tablet Microsoft releases. It's going to fail because it isn't backed up by an ARM-based phone ecosystem. It also doesn't matter that much about stores. The number of Microsoft-branded stores will have a negligible effect on the platform's success.

          After all these years, Ballmer's Microsoft is still chasing the wrong cat (Apple), when its real competitor, Google, is coming out of left field with products like the Chromebook. How is it possible that a company as large as Microsoft has no idea what it is doing, and doesn't understand the dynamics of the market it is in?

          BTW, if you want a 7" tablet at $300 or less, Google's Nexus is already there. Google's business model doesn't require it to make any profit at all on the hardware.
          • and of course we have you,

            who could post clueless rants on all Microsoft threads without feeling for any shame. Way to go.
            Ram U
          • and of course we have comment monkeys like you,

            bashing and trashing every other comment not in line with your monkey vision of the world order.
          • @tetraclit, yes we have you, a resident monkey

            Ram U
          • Maybe you don't get it...

            Even if Windows 8 sells with Vista-like numbers, a year from now there will still be 200-300 million devices running Windows 8 & RT. That will be more than all of the new Android and Apple devices sold in the same time period.

            I don't think it really matters how many of those devices are actually tablets or hybrids, because Microsoft is unifying all of its OSes--phone, tablet, laptop & PC. I think this is a brilliant move. A move that Apple and Google will be forced to follow.

            In spite of all the misguided reports of doom & gloom for Windows 8, the reality is that the reason Windows 8 isn't booming (just yet) is due to a lack of touch screen laptops & hybrids available on the market. As more become available, I believe that Windows 8 sales will skyrocket, much like Windows 7 did.

            I think a lot of analysts are making the mistake of comparing Surface sales to iPad sales. Or Windows Phone sales to Android sales. But they're missing the point. Windows 8 is the real competitor, not individual devices... because Windows 8 is the unifying force that brings phones, tablets, laptops & desktops under one OS.

            In summary, if there are close to 300 million Windows 8 & RT devices out in the wild a year from now, will app developers really ignore Windows 8? Not if they're smart.
          • How low can it go?

            With respect, newyorkcitymale, the Surface RT sales are already so low that if you multiplied it by 12 it would not reach a few million units.

            Although Microsoft has not released the Surface RT sales numbers (and that says something in itself), there are numerous other reliable sources and analysis of the retail channel which show disastrous Surface RT sales.
          • Last I read

            Surface sales were on the order of 600,000 units so far. Multiply by 12 and that's 7.2 million, which is in fact several million sales.
            Sam Wagner
          • Yes, examples of limited perspectives

            NewYCM is correct in his analysis of the MSF Win8 strategy. Win8 is an ecosystem, a complementary group of products that gives us complete control of our environment; everything we do will be synchronized and accessible. I believe that this is something that Bill Gates talked about as his vision of where he thought computing and electronic personal assistants would evolve.
    • I think people are missing the point of Surface...

      I think a lot of people are missing the point of Surface. It's totally possible that what Microsoft said from the outset is true--that its Surface products are primarily designed to set a standard and to guide its OEM partners. If they happen to sell well too, well that's great... but they may not be Microsoft's primary concern. After all, Microsoft makes money whether it sells a Surface or whether HP, Dell or Lenovo sell a desktop, laptop, hybrid or tablet with Windows 8 or RT.

      Microsoft's primary concern is still selling millions (and billions) of copies of its software and services. Since its OEM partners have been slow out of the gate with touch screen hybrids (which seem to be in high demand... but in short supply), Microsoft is releasing Surface to more retailers... or maybe that was their plan all along. But Surface is a premium device, made of premium components, and sold at a premium price. Some consumers (maybe many) will feel that the price is too high and go for something a little cheaper or with a different design, but so long as the other device has Windows 8 or RT on it, it's a win for Microsoft.

      A year from now, there will likely be about 200-300 million devices with Windows 8 or RT on them... which will probably be more than all of the new Android devices sold, and more than all of the new iOS devices sold. Suddenly, Microsoft's touch OS is at parity with the other two giants... but the big difference is that Microsoft is unifying its phone, tablet & desktop OS faster than the others. I don't think developers will ignore that for long. Not if they're smart.
      • Sure-feces

        looks like a piece of premium junk to me. Complete rubbish. First-hand experience.

        I don't care who sells how much of that junk to whom. All I care is my experience and satisfaction, which is nowhere with this sure-feces.
      • Premium?

        After decades of fueling the race to the bottom and proclaiming 'windows on everything', attempting to position Surface as a premium device would appear to be an up hill battle, would it not? MS ceded the high ground, i.e. premium anything, to Apple a long time ago.
        • Well, I own one. Do you?

          I called it a premium product because I own one. Do you?

          I've owned several laptops & a cheap netbook, and from my experience, the Surface is by far the best designed of the bunch. It is handsome, sturdy, and feels very good in the hand.

          What always surprises me about these blogs is that the owners of Apple are supposed to be so happy with their Apple products, but they always seem so angry and spend so much time trashing articles about Microsoft or Android. I can't speak for others, but I don't stake out articles about the iPad and then trash talk. In fact, I don't rarely read articles about products that I don't own, use, or plan to own.

          Can someone explain this to me, why so many satisfied Apple-product owners seem so jilted and angry?
  • Windows 8 has windows 7 build-in the New OS

    Yesterday i went to the local Costco and noticed the Windows 8 operating system and check it out, I was supprized to see the OS we all use for years is there,(windows 7) desktop and all. How many in the IT reporting and Blogger said there was not going to be the the windows OS as we know it. They Lied. I will be purchasing a New Windows 8 and i will be a supporter of this smooth, stable and quick bootup system from now on.
    • What are you taking about?

      “(windows 7) desktop and all.”
    • You're confused,

      or you just aren't paying attention. (Or you're being willfully untruthful about your ignornace.) Windows 8 was ALWAYS going to have the Desktop Interface with the exception of the Windows RT version. If you have the Windows RT version, which is what is on all the current Surface RT tablets, then NO, you do not get the Desktop Interface to run your current Windows programs. If you have Windows 8 or Windows 8 Professional, then it does have this and it always was reported this way and every Preveiw Release and Beta operated this way. So either you are 1 year behind in your tech news, you don't understand what was reported, or you just aren't paying attention.
  • Interesting

    "Microsoft intentionally limited initial distribution of its Surfaces supposedly so as not to hurt its PC- and tablet-making partners."

    I wonder how Asus, Samsung and the other's currently selling Windows RT tablets are doing? Poorly I would guess. And how would they feel about having Microsoft Surface products competing directly with them, at the same retail chains? Especially after paying Microsoft close to $100 in licence for the OS?
    • really?

      >>Especially after paying Microsoft close to $100 in licence for the OS?
      do you have proof for that claim? AFAIK, I haven't seen licensing amount for Windows RT.
      Ram U