Ballmer admits Surface sales off to a "modest" start


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has admitted that sales of the software giant's self-developed Windows RT Surface tablet have been "modest" to date.

The launch of the 399 Surface on 26 October marked Microsoft's first significant foray into the hardware market. Meanwhile, the 32GB version of the device sold out in the UK within a week of its pre-order release.

However, in an interview with French daily newspaper, Le Parisien, Microsoft chief suggested the firm's go-to-market strategy had dampened sales of the device.

We've had a modest start with Surface.

"We've had a modest start because Surface is only available on our online retail sites and a few Microsoft stores in the United States," he said.

During the interview, he also revealed that four million Windows 8 upgrades were sold in the first three days of the new operating system's launch.

Traditionally, Microsoft has mainly drawn on its worldwide network of reseller partners to push its software products to end users.

The firm decided to bypass them this time around by selling Surface direct to customers through its online store and US retail outlets.

In a post on the Channelnomics blog, Larry Walsh, chief executive of analyst The 2112 Group, said the strategy may have been an attempt by the firm to appease its OEM partners.

"Most of the major PC vendors are coming out with Windows 8 tablets. HP, in particular, is planning to address the business market with professional tablets running Windows 8," stated Walsh.

"By keeping Surface [on limited sales distribution], Microsoft may be clearing the lanes for PC vendors to sell their devices through reseller partners [to reduce conflict]," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.