Speaking to a French newspaper, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has confirmed that sales of his company’s first self-branded Surface RT are off to a modest start. This is the first indication of any sales progress for the tablet since it debuted late last month alongside the new Windows 8 desktop OS and the lightweight Windows RT OS for consumer tablets.
Unfortunately, Ballmer didn’t give specific sales figures as a follow-up to his comment that the tablet has had ‘modest sales.’
Though the Surface RT had debuted to mixed reviews–early reviews praised Microsoft’s hardware and design while reviewers were concerned of the limited apps and the small ecosystem surrounding the Microsoft-branded tablet at launch–Microsoft is seemingly forging its own destiny with hardware. The Surface Pro, which will run the full Windows 8 operating system and come with an Intel processor that will allow the tablet to run legacy programs designed for Windows 7 and earlier is still coming.
In addition to the Surface tablets, Microsoft is also rumored to be working on a Surface-branded Windows Phone strategy. To date, Microsoft is taking a Google Nexus-like approach by choosing hardware heroes from its hardware partners; with Windows Phone 7 it was with Nokia’s Lumia range and Microsoft is turning to HTC with the Windows Phone 8 launch. A personal-branded Surface phone may help Microsoft move the direction of hardware and software along to be more competitive and have greater control of the user experience while at the same time demonstrating to partners what can be achieved.
The Surface RT had quickly sold out from pre-sale inventories online, though at the time Microsoft did not give any indication as to what number of tablets had been moved. Inventory at local Microsoft retail stores seem to be healthy, indicating that demand may be tapering in the meantime as consumers are taking a wait and see approach.
Sales of the Surface RT may not be proper indication for Microsoft’s Windows ecosystem, however, as the Surface is only available through limited channels. Currently, it is only offered for sale through Microsoft’s retail stores and on Microsoft’s web portals.