There’s something wrong with Surface, Microsoft’s line of high-end and mid-range 2-in-1s. After announcing updated versions of the tablets to great fanfare last September, the company has returned to keeping quiet about any future plans.
To be fair, that’s the company’s standard operation procedure on hardware. Launch it, ship frequent software updates and firmware fixes, all the while preparing for the next hardware revision. That process I know; that process I understand.
Since their arrival in October, the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 haven’t just been hard to find; they’ve been perpetually sold out. Even now, a few months after launch, we’re still waiting for Surface stock to stabilize so that users who want the devices can pick one up.
Heading to Microsoft’s own retail store’s website yields little in the way of results. Now, every version of the Surface Pro 2 except for the model the ships with 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM is sold out and has been off and on for days. Trying to find the device at Best Buy yields similar results, though at least the retailer has more units as the price increases. Even finding the Surface 2, one of the few remaining tablets to running the Windows RT operating system that doesn’t allow users to install desktop applications, is a challenge.
This phenomenon is also affecting the Surface’s already fragile ecosystem of accessories and add-ons. Last fall Microsoft announced a new slate of accessories that it promised would make the Surface, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 a better option for consumers. Of the Type Cover 2, Touch Cover 2, Dock, Car Charger, Power Cover and Wireless Cover attachment only the first three have actually made it to store shelves. Those three are all suffering shortages online and in store, along with the tablets they’re meant to accessorize.
Look, I’m not here declaring that the Surface line is sold out and therefore the iPad finally has the competitor it needs. It’s entirely possible that the $2 billion write-off Microsoft took on the first generation of Surface tablets scared the company into producing too few units of the current Surface models.
What am I’m saying is that this is not exactly a great look for Microsoft. Sure, delaying accessories and not being able to meet demand gets a product a certain amount of respect during the holiday season.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, the holiday season is now over and potential Surface buyers are coming into stores and going online only to be disappointed. Sure, the first time happens they might brush it off. Then, I suspect they’ll think to themselves what the rest of us are already wondering: “What is going on with Surface?”