Microsoft Surface sales not expected to top 600,000 this quarter

Surface's limited availability and mixed reviews appear to be affecting sales

Middling reviews and limited distribution may be putting a damper on sales of Microsoft's Surface tablet, according to brokerage firm Detwiler Fenton.

The Boston-based firm estimates that Microsoft will sell between 500,000 and 600,000 Surface with Windows RT tablets in the December quarter. The fact that Surface is only available through Microsoft's online store and small number of retail shops is a big factor, the firm said, and mixed reviews haven't helped.

I'd take that estimate with a grain of salt, as it's not clear where those numbers come from certainly not from Microsoft. Still, it's not the only hint of low sales for the Surface. Last month, Digitimes (itself an iffy source for rumors) claimed that Microsoft cut its Surface RT orders by half, from four million to two million, citing supply chain sources.

Microsoft hasn't revealed any official sales figures, but last month CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted by Le Parisien as saying Surface RT sales started off modestly. Microsoft then claimed that Ballmer was actually talking about distribution, rather than sales.

So in a sense, Ballmer and Detwiler Fenton are saying similar things: Distribution of Microsoft's Surface with Windows RT tablet has been modest, so unless Surface is flying off Microsoft Store shelves indications are that it isn't sales aren't going to be stellar.

It seems to me that people are at least aware of the Surface. I've had friends and acquaintances ask me about that clicking thing a reference to Microsoft's ubiquitous TV commercial but I doubt that many average consumers are seeking out Microsoft Stores even if they have one in their area. (For what it's worth, I've been telling these people to at least wait and see whether the Surface with Windows 8 Probetter suits their needs.)

Microsoft has promised to make Surface available in more countries and in more stores soon, but it's not clear whether that includes other retailers, or just more of its own stores. If sales are as slow as Detwiler Fenton estimates, it may soon be time to bring the Surface to more outlets.

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Jared Newman

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