Expectations can be a killer. Just ask Microsoft, as the software giant and nascent hardware maker struggles to gain some market share in the highly lucrative but somewhat rigid tablet market. Devices powered by Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows RT, launched in October, are having a tough time gaining traction against market-leader Apple's iPad devices, which created the market in 2010, and Samsung's wide range of something-for-everybody tablets and "phablets."
Now comes a report that the Surface, the first Windows device made by Microsoft (which usually licenses its operating system to other manufacturers) hasn't met hoped-for goals. A report by Bloomberg said the Redmond, Wash.,-based tech giant has sold 1.1 million Surface devices powered by Windows RT, while the pricier Surface Pro, powered by Window 8, sold about 400,000.
The report cited three unnamed sources familiar with the matter and noted that at least one analyst had projected 2 million Surfaces sold by the end of last year. Three million devices were ordered by Microsoft.
Building a Market
Both the Intel Core i5-powered Pro and the Nvidia Tegra 3-packing Surface RT come with an optional keyboard, unlike Apple and Samsung devices, and have garnered mostly positive reviews. As the name suggests, the Pro was seen booting up, surfing and launching apps faster than its sibling, and can run legacy Windows software. The Pro costs $899 for the 64-GB version and $999 for the 128-GB. The RT costs $499 for a 32-GB version, $599 for the 64-GB
Microsoft is counting on both models to build a market for Windows-based tablets, rather than iOS and Android, as PCs running the company's operating systems and application suites gradually head for extinction.
Research firm IDC this week forecast steady growth for Windows in the next four years, with a rise from 2.8 percent market share this year to 7.4 percent in 2017 for Windows 8, and 1.9 percent to 2.7 percent for Windows RT.
So, are the leaked numbers, if correct, good news or bad news? Both, said analyst Jeff Orr of ABI Research.
Hope Lies Ahead
"The timing of Windows RT and Windows 8 launches in October 2012 were simply the worst possible time of the year to introduce something new that audiences could not play with and touch before needing to commit to end-of-year 2012 (holiday) purchase," Orr told us. "It had zero impact on business purchases and slightly more than zero gains for the consumer market."
The analyst noted that using the Surface devices requires a "learning curve" for using its Live Tiles interface, regardless of their previous experience with earlier Windows systems.
"A certain amount of 'unlearning' must occur to get back to the same level of productivity and convenience users had with Windows 7 and earlier," Orr said.
ABI Reasearch predicts, however, that more businesses will start to look at Windows-based tablet solutions toward the middle of this year, with a "wave of adoption" occurring around the beginning of next year.
"While that sounds like a long time from now, it's fairly efficient from previous technology and PC evaluation cycles," Orr added.
Posted: 2013-03-19 @ 7:27am PT
Considering the conditions Microsoft tablets were released, it is a big waste of time and money. A customer who bought Microsoft's tablet regrets and complains to 10 more potential customers...
Apple and Samsung thanks Microsoft for that with a big smile!
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 7:37pm PT
I am not surprised by the numbers considering the timing and the models. The one to keep an eye on is the Pro model. It's the only option that works out of the box as a full-fledged business tablet.
Like it or not Apple is a consumer product and it will continue to do well there. The enterprise is where Microsoft will pick up market share because it owns this space and is trusted.
HAE in Reston:
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 5:30pm PT
...and then there will be the feedback! I bought the Surface and have come to regret it. Windows 8 on my desktop also is extremely disappointing. These two problems are pushing me over to the Mac world.
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 5:19pm PT
Too little, too late, for too much money.
$orry Microsoft, but you have blown it again.
Are we sure that Ballmer doesn't work for Apple or Samsung? THAT would make sense...
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 4:51pm PT
I agree. I would think that Microsoft planned on allot more Rt's being sold. Problem is it really doesn't have any advantage over iOS and Android devices because of the currently small Microsoft Store. The addition of Flash compatibility helps, but in no way is a big enough benefit to overturn. We are currently investigating the RT as a limited/protected user platform and so far so good. 400k for the Pro on the other hand is a good start due to the shock of the new form factor to average consumers and the fact that I would bet a large majority of us that actually bought the Pro are tech leaders to those around them. People can say what they want, but the Pro will revolutionize many industries. Maybe not by itself, but the clones of itself and the competition of it that will come. It is a definite game changer for my industry.
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 4:48pm PT
every single Surface sold means one less profit from Apple.
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 4:36pm PT
no mention of the return rate?
article is hopelessly incomplete.
Posted: 2013-03-15 @ 1:43pm PT
1.1 million RT is not a lot, 400K Pro is a lot.