Microsoft Adds Retail Locations for Surface RT

DH Kass, Senior Contributing Blogger

December 12, 2012

3 Min Read
Microsoft Adds Retail Locations for Surface RT

Maybe, as it turns out, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) isn’t all that happy with Surface RT sales figures so far for this quarter. In an announcement painfully lacking in details, the software-developer-turned-hardware-maker said it will allow some third-party retailers to sell the tablet, beginning perhaps as soon as in the next few days, and will turn a number of its temporary, so-called pop-up holiday stores into permanent retail outlets.

Once again, it appears for all to see that Microsoft won’t let its channel partners even scratch the surface to sell its tablets (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Since Surface RT hit the market Oct. 26, Microsoft has limited sales channels to 31 of its own stores, 34 holiday specialty outlets and online, a strategy that has confounded some observers. Even while announcing an expanded distribution profile for Surface, the vendor exhibited some of the same odd behavior, shying away from offering any specifics on which retailers or how many will get Surface RT, topped, perhaps by Staples‘ (NASDAQ: SPLS) disclosure that it expects to have the device for sale on its shelves and at its online site within a day or two. Big box retailer Best Buy will be selling Surface RT as well, according to a published report.

“Staples is excited to provide this innovative product to customers just in time for the holiday season,” said Mike Edwards, Staples executive vice president merchandising, in a statement. Staples customers spending at least $699 will receive a package of free training, support, startup and data transfer.

Microsoft said that its sales blueprint for Surface RT all along has been to open up more retail channels after Jan. 1, but interested retailers prompted the vendor to step up its rollout schedule. The vendor said it will increase production of the tablet to accommodate the additional retail outlets.

“Our plan has been to expand the retail presence for Surface after the first of the year. Based on interest from retailers, we are giving them the option to carry Surface with Windows RT even earlier,” said Steve Schueler, Microsoft retail sales and marketing corporate vice president.

The vendor has assessed demand for the tablet thus far as “exciting to see,” according to Panos Panay, Surface general manager. How far afield that characterization drifts from analysts’ estimates of expected Surface sales for Q4, ranging from Detwiler Fenton’s 500,000-600,000 units to iSuppli’s forecast of up to 1.3 million units, while an open question, is one readily answered when Microsoft posts actual sales figures for the tablet. Let’s not forget, however, that both of those projections didn’t include third-party retail sales.

Microsoft’s expanded distribution lineup for Surface RT right now includes the United States and Australia with more countries added in the next few months. The vendor said it will continue to sell Surface tablets at its own retail stores in North America and Australia and online in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. At some point, Microsoft said it will transition its holiday locations into permanent stores or specialty outlets.

The Surface Pro tablet running Windows 8 is slated to show in January, priced starting at $899. Is Microsoft setting the table now for how it will sell Surface Pro? Stay tuned.

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About the Author(s)

DH Kass

Senior Contributing Blogger, The VAR Guy

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