After a French publication misquoted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week, the firm was forced to correct a comment about Surface tablet sales. Reception to the new device has been “fantastic,” Microsoft says, not “modest” as was originally reported. See also, "Q: What is Microsoft Surface?" and "Top 10: Windows Surface FAQs."

Ballmer’s comments were misquoted by Le Parisien, a French newspaper. In the article, Ballmer was quoted as saying that Surface sales had thus far been “modest,” triggering waves of ridiculous blogger reaction. One blogger referred to the device as “a major flop” before Microsoft’s correction appeared.

But Microsoft says the paper misquoted him: Ballmer said that distribution for Surface had “started modestly,” since the device is only being sold through Microsoft Store online and retail locations.

“When asked about Surface, Steve’s use of the term ‘modest’ was in relation to the company’s approach in ramping up supply and distribution of Surface with Windows RT, which has only been available via our online store and Microsoft retail and holiday stores in the United States and Canada,” a Microsoft statement reads. “While our approach has been modest, Steve notes the reception to the device has been ‘fantastic’ which is why he also stated that ‘soon, it will be available in more countries and in more stores.’”

You might recall that I earlier reported that the Microsoft Store’s lock on Surface will end in early 2013, when Microsoft will allow other retailers to sell the devices. The quote above appears to confirm that story.

And I was told by two sources a week ago that sales of the existing Surface model, which runs Windows RT, had in fact been well above Microsoft’s loftiest projections. Microsoft, of course, sold out of each Surface model in the run-up to the launch on October 26, though a quick scan of the Microsoft Store online suggests that the firm has caught up with demand.