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.)
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.)
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.