Despite heavy television advertising, sales of Microsoft’s own tablet device – the Surface – have been only “modest” according to CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer made the fairly candid comments during an interview with the French newspaper LeParisien. Sales of the Surface, while initially swift for a short period after its launch about two weeks ago, have dwindled. Early reports of inventory shortages are being pushed aside with more recent reports that consumers have cooled on the device.
Back in June we profiled the Surface and overall we thought the device had promise. However, we also acknowledged that Microsoft has lost prior battles over its own manufactured devices, the most notable example being the now-defunct Zune line of MP3 players that were never able to gain any appreciable market share against Apple’s iPod.
According to the above report, it appears that limited availability of the Surface is dragging down sales. Currently the only retailer that carries the Surface is Microsoft’s own stores (the Surface is also available online). This presents a significant roadblock to potential buyers as it severely limits the number of stores to test one of the Surface tablets before purchasing it. Considering the Surface starts at $499, it’s a safe bet that users will want to try one out in person before laying down that much cash.
The biggest reason that Surface has so far been excluded from consumer electronics big-box retailers like Best Buy is that those retailers already carry competing tablet devices that also run a mobile-optimized version of Windows 8. Some competing manufacturers are wary of Microsoft trying to eat into their market share with the Surface, and thus so far have been active in lobbying retailers to not carry the Surface.
Nevertheless, the holiday shopping season has just begun, so let’s see how sales figures end up when Microsoft next reports its quarterly earnings. And even though Microsoft will not have a major presence at CES this upcoming year, their have been rumblings among the tech community that the Surface and compatible peripherals will make their way on the Las Vegas Convention Center floor in one form or another, which could help generate some extra buzz for the device. Pnosker.com staff will be on-site once again at CES this upcoming January, so definitely stay tuned for live reports from the show floor at CES 2013!