Microsoft Surface Coming to Best Buy, Staples

Dennis Faas's picture

Since its launch in late October, 2012, the Surface tablet computer has been available for purchase only through Microsoft stores and websites. However, that exclusivity seems to be over, and the Surface will soon begin appearing in third-party retail stores.

A new report suggests the Surface will go on sale in Best Buy, Staples, and other major retail outlets as early as January 2013. That is the same time frame in which Microsoft will begin selling its Surface Pro tablet computer. (Source:

Surface Range Not Yet Complete

Right now the only Surface available to consumers runs a limited operating system called Windows RT, which is designed for lower-capability processors and can run only software obtained through the Microsoft app store.

By comparison, the Surface Pro will be much more powerful, running a full-blown version of Windows 8.

News of Microsoft's apparent change in distribution strategy has raised questions about why the software giant decided to sell the Surface so exclusively in the first place.

While Apple used a similar strategy when it launched the iPad, it had and still has a much larger retail presence than Microsoft.

One theory about Microsoft's Surface sales strategy is that company management wanted to limit competition between the Surface and other Windows RT-based tablet computers.

Another suggestion is that Microsoft experienced parts supply shortages at the Surface's launch, so it could build only enough tablets to supply its own retail channels.

Microsoft Release Schedule Confusing

Analysts also continue to question Microsoft's decision to release the Surface Pro in January 2013. Many experts believe the newer device, which features more storage, memory, and processing power, will upstage the older Surface RT.

If buyers decide to wait for the Surface Pro, that would mean fewer sales of Surface RTs between now and Christmas, the heavy buying season for consumer electronics.

To date, Microsoft has been quiet about exactly how many Surface devices it has sold, and also whether keeping them exclusive to Microsoft stores has hurt sales.

One firm that advises investors suggests Microsoft will sell about half a million Surface RT devices by the end of the year, significantly below some observers' expectations. (Source:

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