Feeds

Microsoft Surface to hit third-party stores on Wednesday

US, Australia first, other countries to follow

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Microsoft has confirmed that it has ramped up production of its Surface fondleslabs in advance of a new global retail sales push, one that should see the devices hit third-party retail store shelves as early as this Wednesday.

"The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see," Surface general manager Panos Panay said in a statement. "We've increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience, and purchase Surface."

Rumors that Microsoft has been planning to expand the retail footprint of Surface have been swirling for weeks, but Redmond has remained mum on its plans until now, presumably as it races to ink last-minute deals with retailers in time for the holiday buying frenzy.

Microsoft's official announcement did not say which retailers would carry the devices, but office-supply giant Staples has separately confirmed that it plans to stock them in its US stores beginning this Wednesday.

Australian retailers – also unnamed – will begin selling the slabs in mid-December, with the retail push continuing into other countries in the following months.

For now, at least, that means retailers will stock the ARM-based version of Surface running Windows RT. Microsoft isn't due to launch the Intel-powered Surface with Windows 8 Pro version until January, and there was no word whether these would get similar distribution to the Surface RT.

Until this announcement, however, the only way to buy a Surface has been directly from Microsoft itself. Redmond has sold the devices through its website to customers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, the UK, and the US since the official Surface launch in October.

In addition, the company operates 31 permanent retail stores where customers can buy Surface in person, and in October it opened an additional 34 "pop-up" stores in malls and shopping areas in the US and Canada.

Microsoft had initially said that these small-scale Surface-flogging kiosks would be temporary, lasting only through the holiday season. But on Tuesday, the software giant said that it now plans to morph the pop-up stores into permanent "specialty store locations," with some even becoming full-blown retail stores.

That move, like the seemingly last-minute decision to get Surface units onto retail shelves before the New Year, is doubtless designed to increase Microsoft's retail presence relative to that of its rival, Apple.

Microsoft has dogged Cupertino's moves closely throughout its fledgling retail adventure. Its permanent retail locations have been described as blatant ripoffs of Apple's, and every one of its pop-up stores opened within a mile's distance of the nearest Apple Store, with most located just up the road – or down the mall corridor.

Still, Microsoft's 65 retail locations are a far cry from Apple's nearly 400, and even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has admitted that the company's retail ramp-up so far has been "modest" – which must surely translate into low sales for Surface, even if he won't admit it.

Ballmer won't be able to put his own spin on the Surface sales story for long, though. With the devices in retailers' hands, an accurate picture of who's buying Surface and in what numbers will start to emerge, which may well make this the make-or-break moment for Microsoft's new hardware strategy. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.