Microsoft Surface Q4 Sales: How Many Have Been Sold?

DH Kass, Senior Contributing Blogger

December 10, 2012

2 Min Read
Microsoft Surface Q4 Sales: How Many Have Been Sold?

In what has the look and feel of dueling Surface Q4 sales outlooks—with the over/under set at 1 million units—the stage is being set to label Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) tablet as either a dud or a reasonable, measured success for the period. As in most things, it depends who you believe and so far, Redmond isn’t talking, at least not much.

On the one hand, we have IHS iSuppli, a well-respected researcher, quasi-bullishly forecasting that Microsoft will sell at least 1 million units in Q4 of the Surface RT tablet, the unit that’s been on the market only since Oct. 26.

“We see estimated sales of 1.3 million” for Q4, said Rhoda Alexander, an iSuppli analyst. “I would be surprised to see it much above that.” Incidentally, in early November, iSuppli came out with a teardown cost analysis of the Surface RT that’s worth a look.

Then there’s the quasi-bearish outlook, as in this forecast from Detwiler Fenton, a Boston-based brokerage, which pegs Surface sales at far below the 1 million unit mark–closer to the 500,000 range for the quarter, as reported here. In the firm’s view, Microsoft’s constrained distribution for Surface is retarding its sales. So far, the vendor has stuck to its strategy of limited sales outlets to its 30 some odd company-owned stores and a similar number of so-called “pop up” holiday retail locations.

That would explain, of course, Detwiler’s research note described Microsoft’s tablet strategy as “in disarray,” according to this report. Add in some lukewarm reviews of the touch cover and Windows RT, the high-ish price, minimal number of apps, and it’s not so difficult to see how Detwiler arrives at its “meh” conclusion.

Detwiler evidently expected Q4 sales of Surface Pro in the 2 million to 3 million unit range, but, as pointed out here, Microsoft never intended to bring the Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) version out until the beginning of next year. Go figure.

Projected Surface sales aside for the moment, Detwiler makes a valid, non-numerical point: implying that Microsoft Surface sales for the period aren’t all that important if the vendor successfully seeds the market for its OEMs, emboldening them, if you will, to dive in deeper with Surface one-offs. It’s a compelling argument, to say the least.

By any measure, Surface has a long, uphill road to traverse to challenge some of the higher tablet sales figures of its more entrenched competitors, Microsoft’s Windows OS dominance notwithstanding. By this account, Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Nexus 7 sales figures, as disclosed in late October by its Taiwanese manufacturer ASUS, are close to 1 million units a month, climbing steadily from 500,000 to the current highwater mark. The gold standard in tablet sales, of course, is Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad, which recorded 14 million units sold in the third quarter.

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About the Author(s)

DH Kass

Senior Contributing Blogger, The VAR Guy

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