Here's a story I didn't expect to be writing: Customers seeking to purchase Microsoft's second-generation Surface tablets are reporting that the devices are sold out almost everywhere, online and in retail stores, and that Microsoft has nothing to say about expected availability. Is Surface 2 much more popular than anyone anticipated? Or stung by last year's defeat, did Microsoft simply not make enough?
"It's certainly been exciting to see the public reaction to these two new products," a Microsoft statement notes. "With regards to specific inventory levels or sales numbers we don't comment on those specific figures. It's our goal to get these two tablets into as many people's hands as possible and we're actively working with manufacturing teams and retail partners to replenish stock where it's been sold out as soon as possible."
Related: Does the Surface Pro 2 Measure Up?
Checking online availability Tuesday morning, I found that all models of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are marked as "out of stock" at Microsoft's online store. At Wal-Mart's website, most of the models are listed as "out of stock online," although one Surface Pro 2 model with 128GB of storage was available for order. Best Buy lists the devices as available but that's a bit of a ruse: They're only available at certain retail stores, and the company can't ship any to customers from the online store.
The best measure, however, might be Amazon.com, since that firm lists actual quantities. And Amazon.com has no Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 models available for sale directly. But it reports that a third-party (and by the look of things, very small and local) retail partner has single-digit quantities of a few models.
Is Surface 2 really selling out?
Yes, I think it is. But the reason is simple: Microsoft simply didn't manufacture as many Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices as it did with the original Surface RT last year. That device, you might recall, was over-manufactured compared with demand, driving Microsoft to write off $900 million related to hardware inventory. It should come as no surprise that the firm would err on the side of under-producing this time around.
Anecdotally, I've heard from many people on Twitter and via email who are upset about their inability to find specific Surface devices or accessories. And while this frustration might seem like a customer-service disaster in the making, it has an upside: News of eager consumers unable to purchase the Surface products they want so badly creates a sense of success, and the sense that Microsoft is rushing to meet the demand. The firm is handling the poor availability of Xbox One in the same fashion.
What I'm most curious about, of course, is actual unit sales. And that's one question I don't expect to see answered anytime soon.