It looks as though the Surface RT hasn’t exactly taken off in the big, bad way Microsoft was hoping it would. Is it just poor distribution and the subsequent lack of availability that’s to blame? Or is there more to it than that?
Microsoft suggested it was looking to sell between three million and five million Surface tablets in Q4 2012. While Microsoft isn’t releasing any numbers, analysts are suggesting this figure is looking a tad optimistic. According to Detwiler Fenton (via AllThingsD), Microsoft is likely to sell between 500,000 and 600,000 Surface RT tablets in December, which is way under target.
In the research note attached to this prediction the brokerage firm states, “Lack of distribution is killing the product. Mixed reviews and a [$499] starting price tag certainly don’t help, but lack of retail exposure at Best Buy and others is severely depressing sales.” The reviews and starting price certainly aren’t helping, and the distribution is pretty lackluster.
In order to buy the Surface RT you have to either order one online or head to a Microsoft Store, if, that is, you’re lucky enough to have one in your area. Which most people are not. Unlike Apple, which has a retail presence in most big cities around the world. This lack of availability is certainly harming Microsoft’s chances of selling to the general public, but that isn’t the only problem with the Surface RT.
I don’t think it’s a bad product in its own right, but no device stands alone, instead having to compete with other devices of a similar nature. And this is why Microsoft is struggling, and probably will struggle for the foreseeable future. If you showed the Surface RT to someone who had never seen a tablet in their life then they’d snap your arm off to get hold of it. But show them the Surface RT as well as the latest iPad and a high-end Android tablet and I very much doubt whether they would choose to keep the Surface RT.
To be fair to Microsoft I don’t think we can fully judge the situation until the Surface Pro is released at the beginning of next year. It may turn out to be too expensive to compete for the mainstream consumer base, but at least we’ll have a Microsoft tablet offering the full Windows 8 tablet on the market. Which is a start.