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Microsoft expands Surface RT production, availability

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Microsoft(s msft) announced on Tuesday it is expanding production and distribution of its Surface RT tablet. The company will be widening retail availability for the Windows slate by mid-December. The company had originally planned such expansion after the new year begins, but retailer interest is high, so it is accelerating the increased availability. Staples(s spls) will be among the first to carry the device, starting tomorrow.

Sales figures for the company’s first computer — historically, it has licensed its platform to other computer makers — haven’t been released, leaving many to question the success of the tablet. Unlike prior computers running Windows, the Surface RT uses a chip designed for smartphones, which required Microsoft to rework its operating system for the new chip. Surface RT is a tablet that can be used similar to a laptop with Microsoft Office software when paired with an optional keyboard.

Some of the temporary holiday stores Microsoft operates will also turn into permanent locations, indicating the company’s commitment in retail:

“Surface will continue to be available for purchase at all Microsoft retail stores in the United States and Canada and online in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Based on the success of the Microsoft holiday stores, the company will extend all of these locations into the new year. These stores will transition into either permanent brick-and-mortar retail outlets or specialty store locations.”

It appears that Microsoft is in the tablet game for the long haul as the result of additional production for its Surface RT device and retail investment. That shouldn’t surprise, however. Apple’s iPad(s aapl) has netted hundreds of millions of revenue dollars and to date, Microsoft has been shut of of the tablet space. Surface RT represents the company’s best chance to regain relevance in the mobile computer market, especially since some are predicting tablets to outsell traditional laptops by 2015.

6 Responses to “Microsoft expands Surface RT production, availability”

  1. This is a good move. As more retail partners showcase Microsoft Surface, in line with some of the OEM offerings that are already out there, then Surface/Windows 8 tablet share will grow. When AMD releases and APU that is battery worthy, then I will spring for the Windows 8 tablet Pro. If you want a Windows 8 tablet the RT is great, why would you cry about full PC functionality on it? The iPad is limited, just like Windows 8 RT tablets, but when I bought a MacBook Air the need for the iPad disappeared COMPLETELY. I still use my MacBook Air(gen 1 with NVidia graphics) with Windows 7 in VMWare Fusion as my main PC; the awesome part is that I can use the RT tablet as a full fledged PC if needed and ditch the MacBook Air. Once there is an AMD APU powered 11.6″ Windows 8 tablet out, I will ditch the MacBook Air totally. What people do not realize is that Microsoft put laptops on notice. This puts pressure on Apple, as their laptops get thinner and thinner; even to a point where they are underpowered just to stay small and thin (MacBook Pro 13 Retina). Google one-upped the Retina display so now that resolution is practically a “given” for tablets and other devices. Phones are no longer an area of competitiveness anymore IMHO. In any case, Microsoft just took everything by storm, and no one seems to see it.
    Now, the hindering issues for such sluggish sales is due to Office 2013, not being released at the time Windows 8 was released, as well as an app store in its infancy. A keyboard. If Microsoft at least bundled a BlueTooth keyboard or priced the touch cover keyboard at 50% less, or even included it with the 128GB model then they would be selling much more than they have so far. I bought the Asus Vivo Tab RT for the fact that they sent me a free keyboard dock. Heck the dock even extends battery life! If Microsoft was really smart they would get their marketing up and running to showcase the connectivity between devices that Windows 8 allows. XBox, Phone, desktop, laptop, Surface/tablet, SkyDrive, and even Windows Terminal Server and Server domains. You know how hard it is to get to my desktop or server Mac from my iPhone and iPad? I have a Windows Home Server 2011 and my Asus Vivo Tab RT has full access to it, with no special apps or tinkering. Not to mention easy access to share folders on other Windows PCs and Macs on my network.
    In any case, I can go on and on, but this is coming from an Apple fanboy (computers and iPhone, iPads not so much) and a big Android tablet user (a 10″ and 7″ Acer Iconia in my bag). I have also owned 3 Windows tablets (XP Tablet Edition, Vista Business, and 7 Pro), and still use a Samsung Q1 (NP-Q1 running Windows 7 Pro) and Fujitsu LifeBook U810 (Windows 7 Pro). I haven’t been excited about Microsoft in a long time, and Windows 8 tablets are about as excited as I have ever been.

  2. Andre Goulet

    This could mean anything. It could be desperation to get their numbers up by the next reporting period, it could be that MS has realized that if they are going to go down the hardware path and risk their OEM relationships they had better keep the retail channel happy and make them their new BFF.

    As an IT consultant, my response to the whole Windows 8 question and especially the RT question is a very clear “not yet” to anyone who asks me. Oddly though, few are even asking as compared to Windows 7. Very few.

    On smaller screens, the UI formerly known as Metro is okay. Seeing weather fullscreen on a 27″ monitor is not only pointless, but sort of overwhelming. I like whitespace as much as the next guy, but come on! I bought a 27″ screen to use it, not to have 78% of it contain nothing. The UI doesn’t adapt content well, except for the News app.

    On an 11″ touchscreen notebook, my middle-aged eyes make me move the laptop back when I’m on the desktop but move it closer in Metro so I can touch it. Frustrating. Probably a non-issue for younger folks though.

  3. It’s easy to claim “retailer interest is high” when you don’t release sales figures. And consumer interest is even higher. How high? I’m sorry, we’re busy making product and can’t take time to answer questions.

  4. If anyone remembers the history behind Microsoft’s “plays for sure” and zune products, they will see a lot of similarities with them and what is now happening with the Surface. Just a few years ago Microsoft wanted to compete with Apple’s ipod and they did so by enlisting the help of many OEMs to create hardware to work with Microsoft’s “plays for sure” software.

    Well, what happened is that the “plays for sure” devices did not sell well. So Microsoft, essentially betrayed their OEM partners by entering into direct competition with them, via the Zune.

    I think this is exactly what we are seeing happen with Windows 8 and the Surface tablet. Microsoft appears to have a habit of blaming their partners when a product is not selling as well as they had expected.

    In the case of “plays for sure” and the zune, they both turned out to be flops. Microsoft getting directly into the market with their own hardware did not help them in their fight against Apple’s ipod.

    Will history repeat itself once again? Will Microsoft’s Surface boost sales of Windows 8 or will it ultimately make no difference? The one thing I am sure of, is that Microsoft’s OEM partners can’t be too happy with this turn of events.

    I would imagine that Microsoft’s OEM partners are getting pretty tired of being betrayed by Microsoft every time the market does not go their way.

  5. How about dropping the price of these devices by about $100 or $200 if you really want to improve sales? It’ll happen anyway I guess when they have the fire sales in about 6 months.