Microsoft this week will begin offering its Surface with Windows RT devices for sale at electronics retailers throughout the world, expanding beyond its original plan to sell the tablets only via its own retail and electronic stores. The change impacts international markets only, though US-based retailers will be selling the Surface RT and Surface with Windows 8 Pro in early 2013 as well.
I exclusively revealed Microsoft’s new strategy on the Windows Weekly podcast last week. My Windows Weekly co-host, Mary Jo Foley, followed this up with her own post, Microsoft to push Surface tablets through retailers in two-phase rollout. (I also wrote a blurb about this change in Short Takes on Friday.)
Microsoft originally planned to expand Surface availability with the launch of the second Surface model, Surface with Windows 8 Pro, in late January 2013. But with both Windows 8 and Surface off to a slow start, the firm moved quickly to adapt and will allow numerous retailing partners outside the US to begin selling Surface with Windows RT starting this week.
In very late January, Staples and Best Buy will join the Microsoft Store in selling both the Surface with Windows RT and Surface with Windows 8 Pro. These devices will also be sold internationally outside of Microsoft’s own stores.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer previously admitted that Microsoft’s initial strategy for distributing Surface was “modest.” But he continues to be misquoted as Le Parisen article mistranslated that remark to indicate that Surface sales were modest. That said, Surface sales absolutely are modest given the limited distribution, a situation Microsoft could have avoided simply by making the device available to other retailers as it is now.
Both Windows 8 and Surface are off to slower-than-expected starts, missing the firm’s internal projections for the first month of availability by a wide margin. But Microsoft hopes that increased Surface distribution and a broader availability of diverse Windows 8 hardware can still save the quarter and set up the systems for long-term success.