You can now buy a Microsoft Surface tablet computer at Best Buy, Staples and a number of other major electronics retailers. But that’s unlikely to help the struggling device turn the corner.
Until recently, the only places where you could buy a Surface tablet were Microsoft’s website or at a Microsoft Store (of which there aren’t too many). With the iPad and other popular tablets available virtually everywhere, it’s no surprise that sales of the Surface have been pretty terrible.
For example, last week Surface sales were reportedly around half a million units since the device debuted back in October. By comparison, Apple sold roughly three million iPads over a three-day span in November.
The problem, according to industry analyst Detwiler Fenton: it’s simply too hard to find a Surface.
“Lack of distribution is killing the product,” Fenton said.
Now that has changed. Visitors to Best Buy and BestBuy.com can find and purchase a Microsoft Surface RT, which runs a slimmed-down version of Windows 8 known as Windows RT.
But will that help? I’d say “no way,” and that’s because the Surface has other problems besides lack of distribution.
For one, it isn’t cheap. At $499 and up, it’s the same price as the Apple iPad. Why would you pay the same amount for a Surface, which can access a few thousand apps via Microsoft’s Windows Store, as you would for an iPad, which can access hundreds of thousands of apps via Apple’s App Store?
Then there’s Microsoft’s not-so-brilliant decision to stagger the releases of different versions of the Surface. The Surface available now, Surface RT, ships with far lower hardware specs and far fewer software features than its soon-to-be-released big brother, the Surface Pro.
We know the Surface Pro is coming in January. That means consumers may decide to wait for it rather than purchase a comparatively under-powered Surface RT. Or, they might just shrug and buy an Apple or Android tablet instead.
Undoubtedly the Surface RT and Surface Pro will sell better now that they’re available at Best Buy and other retailers. But it probably won’t save the device from relatively obscurity.