back to article Surface left on shelves as world+dog slurps up small slates

Half a million Microsoft Surface tablets may be gathering dust on shop shelves, it has been claimed. Market watcher IHS iSuppli reckons Microsoft shipped 1.25 million Surface tablets into the resale channel during Q4 2012. However, only 55 to 60 per cent of those Windows RT-based devices were purchased by punters. That means …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What surprised me was the fact Microsoft only just missed taking the 5th position despite poor sales of the overpriced RT models. Also that B&N got the #5 accolade on such low volumes. Interesting to see what changes this year.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprisingly

      This is the big difference Apple quote SALES other people (like Microsoft) quote shipped - so the figures look better until the facts come out that half are still on the shelves / in warehouses gathering dust.

      Quite different when Apple cannot build them quick enough.

    2. Euripides Pants

      Re: Surprisingly

      As the owner of a Nook Color, it is my opinion that Barnes and Noble don't deserve 5th place, they deserve 6th place. If it wasn't so easy to run CyanogenMod on these things they'd be utterly useless.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprisingly

      As a rabid ex microsoft user, and Linux loving nut, I actually admit to the idea of really wanting one.

      Like the best of the line, for $10, maybe $20.... no make that $10... fully cracked and running Linux...

      That or piling up pallets of them, into a HUGE heap, outside their head quarters, and then burning the lot of them.

      That and a few container ship loads of all their boxes of software.....

      1. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

        Re: Surprisingly

        I think you use the word 'rabid' correctly. If you truly feel this strong about a piece of IT equipment because it does not fit in with your dogma, you have a problem and should seek help.

  2. Mark Dowling

    maybe they could stop this "only for non-commercial use but there's a separate licence" bunk

    Might persuade some corporates to buy a few.

  3. James 51

    I think the biggest problem RT has is that it is the word Windows in front of it. People think it is a laptop with a detachable keyboard and then the reality hits them.

    1. stragen001

      Windows 8

      If microsoft had just made a dedicated OS for tablets, and a dedicated OS for desktops instead of trying to mash everything into one, then there is no doubt in my mind that both would have been superior and resulted in higher sales numbers for both Surface Tablets, and Windows 8(the desktop version)

      Maybe Microsoft will start to realise this now too with the poor sales of Surface and lack of adoption of Windows 8.

      1. ratfox

        Re: Windows 8

        Lack of apps.

        The reason they shoehorned the TIFKAM into desktops is that they hope to attract more developers for it. The developers would not bother for their current market share on mobile, and the market share will not improve unless developers write apps. It's a chicken and egg problem, and they are trying to solve it by having their cash cow lay the egg. Er… Yes.

        1. Thomas 4

          Re: Windows 8

          Why didn't they put Win Phone 8 on a Surface instead of Windows CE mark II?

  4. JDX Gold badge

    Everyone going 7" seems a mistake to me. The original iPad form factor seems ideal to me for browsing the web and watching video without having to zoom in on smaller text.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Everyone going 7" seems a mistake to me.

      No, those not seeing the potential in the 7" market are the ones making the mistake. That would be Microsoft, then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Smaller than 7" and it's too small to be useful - or so I have heard. Prefer my 10 incher (and so does my wife) phanarr...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Everyone going 7" seems a mistake to me. The original iPad form factor seems ideal to me for browsing the web and watching video without having to zoom in on smaller text

      Even though I agree with you that I think 7" is a bit small the I-pad most definitely has the wrong format for watching 16:9 or 16:10 video. The bigger screen comes with considerable added weight and as you almost always have to scroll down websites, the 16:10 format is less of a problem. The I-pad's 4:3 format does make sense in other applications but in turns out most people are using their tablets to consume media and portability and, therefore, weight is key.

      1. joejack
        Thumb Up

        Apple was so careful to not break existing iPad apps by quadrupling the pixels for the iPad3 (and then calling it "retina", as if they had a choice). Interesting then that the new iphone is now 16:9, requiring app developers to update their apps. Good on them for recognizing the better aspect ratio and then taking the hit.

        And good on them for keeping iPad's at 4:3. The aspect ratio on android tablets is what keeps me away. 4:3 8" screen with no side bezels on the mini was a brilliant choice. For everything except for youtube, 4:3 is a more natural layout.

        Aside: not a fanboi; I have an android phone and no iPad. Waiting for them to chop the bezels off of the 10", or up the resolution of the mini first. Or for a properly spec'd android with a 4:3 screen.

        1. Dana W

          The aspect ration was what I liked the LEAST about my Nexus 7. Great for watching movies, but a pain for web browsing. There are things I miss about my Nexus 7, but the aspect ration is NOT one of them.

        2. Philippe

          I couldn't agree more

          I was in a meeting yesterday and the sales director had an ipad mini with him.

          He launched and started commenting the numbers.

          the size looked perfect for this.

          Later on I had lunch with a supplier.

          He was using a Nexus7. We did a bit of spreadsheet work using quickofficePro.

          The format just looked cramped and weird, however as satnav he commented and I suppose to watch video .

          That is was brillant.

          There you have it, Work related stuff 4:3 consumption related 16:9 or 16:10

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      7" is pocket size, very handy and useable in my experience but hopeless for non-simplistics apps. I've been pleased with the Nexus 7. Surface/iPad size more comfortable for lounge browsing and travel. I can imagine in a couple of years travelling around with a phone, a 7", an 11" and maybe a lightweight 16" plug in screen and its all still more portable than a laptop, main thing I'd like to see improve is the way these devices talk to each other. I expect the 11" will be a Surface Pro type device, looking ahead the days of an 11" pure play tablet like iPad 4 are numbered.

    4. Tom 35

      Going 7"

      I have a Nexus 7 (paid for it my self) and a surface (gift).

      I carry the nexus 7 with me. It's the biggest size that will fit in one hand securely and, fit in a pocket.

      The surface is too big to hold in one hand securely and is quite heavy to hold for long periods. With the built in stand and add on keyboard it becomes a vastly overpriced netbook that's too top heavy and floppy to use on your lap.

      I have an iPod touch 2nd gen and wanted something bigger but found the iPad to be too big. I might have bought the iPad mini if it came out last year, but I like the Nexus 7 better so I'm glad they waited.

  5. Mage Silver badge

    Surface tries to be a Tablet and a Notebook and Windows and using ARM. So fails at everything. It might have succeeded if NOT trying to be Windows and a Tablet.

  6. Mage Silver badge


    Too expensive. They will never be Apple.

    1. Whitter

      Re: Also

      I thought too expensive *was* Apple?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Also

        People mistakenly say that - the S3 is about 20% cheaper than an iPhone 5 because it has to be. The new Blackberry is £30-40 less so won't sell.

  7. Chris 171

    Fire Sale?

    I mean they look nice (Like a very big Sony X1060 Walkman if you ask me) but yeah RT & Win8 is just not cricket.

    Still cant fathom how they could make something so unintuitive.

    I blame apple.

  8. Mark .

    Android now ahead?

    To be fair, it's all relative - I don't recall the Register moaning about ASUS's results in Q4 2011 when they sold far less than a million. (Or consider 2007, when Apple had a measly 3.3 million over 6 months, which for phones is abysmal.) Typically new platforms (which Windows RT is) start small, the question is growth. And however much or little each sells, it's good to have choice (I'm sure Clevo don't sell that many, but that doesn't stop me liking my Clevo laptop). If people are preferring smaller tablets, we should be noting how Apple got it wrong too.

    And hang on - what's Android's share? If Windows RT is small, and IOS at 43%, I make that Android now leading in non-phone tablets too.

    Rather depressing to see once again, the media do the trick of stop reporting by OS, and switch to reporting by company, just to suit what makes Apple look best.

    Oh, and shouldn't growth be given in change in percentage (or perhaps absolute increase in sales), and not relative growth? I mean, MS are first with infinite growth, by that measure...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android now ahead?

      "Typically new platforms (which Windows RT is) start small, the question is growth."

      Except they are entering a market with 2 already very dominant (and superior) competitors AND trying to flog and expensive product.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hafl a Million?

    Half a million Microsoft Surface tablets may be gathering dust on shop shelves

    500'000? Is that a lot? Unless these things can be re-purposed what kind of $$$ loss is MSFT looking at with this gamble? Is this > $200'000'000.00 unsold stock?

    1. Mark .

      Re: Hafl a Million?

      It's not like this is fruit 'n' veg. Worst case, even with flat growth this quarter, they just pause production and sell the rest in time. Not sure what profit they make per device, but even at just £10 a device - well, let's just say that I wish my so-called "failures" net me £10 million.

      1. Levente Szileszky

        Re: Hafl a Million?

        It's actually WORSE than f'n'v - it was way more expensive to 'grow' and it might will never sell so they might end up taking it back, they cannot feed the pigs with it or use it for compost etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        so-called "failures"

        Well then, here is a ready made $200'000'000.00 kickstarter project.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hafl a Million?

        That's assuming they are making a profit or don't have to drop the price so much to shift them they end up making a loss.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Hafl a Million?

        let's just say that I wish my so-called "failures" net me £10 million

        It is conceivable that there were some development costs for the Surface which Microsoft might like to recover. The net profit on the marginal cost of the devices is hardly the end of the story.

  10. hitmouse

    A few doing solitary in every department store

    The only Surface tablets I've seen in the flesh have all been sitting on glass cases inside department store tech departments. No label other than a 12pt price tag, no view of a box, no floor advertising, and no way of trying it even if you can locate someone with a key for cabinet.

    It's several rungs of unwantedness below the shelves of ultrabooks and Windows 8 laptops that are all stuck on the login screen or which have had the desktop disabled, no internet access and the usual list of sales presentation problems that we've all seen for decades.

    1. Steve Williams

      "...ultrabooks and Windows 8 laptops that are all stuck on the login screen..."

      Better than some stores where they are all without power, but have a stupid plastic sticker on the screen with a representation of what the OS might look like. The sales droids will not power them up.

      1. hplasm

        Re: "...ultrabooks and Windows 8 laptops that are all stuck on the login screen..."

        That's to make them look good- imagine if they *were* powered up...

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft in channel stuffing shocker.

    Nothing new here. Every new hardware product, they stuff the channel to make numbers look what shareholders expect.

    The idiots are those than believe it...

  12. HamsterNet

    The other 500,000

    where all used in those pointless adverts that tell you absolutely nothing about the product.

  13. jnffarrell1

    Original mistake to build lap-tabs was Apple's

    Lap-tabs were always inferior to light laptops with long lived batteries that would not burn your leg while you sat somewhere comfortable. iPads are much better than laptops, but useless while being held in one hand while walking about. MS just doubled down on Jobs mistake.

    1. Dana W

      Re: Original mistake to build lap-tabs was Apple's

      That's why the iPad mini is doing so well. Just had one of the people I support come back from an Apple iPad training class. She told me she was the only one in the class that DIDN'T have an iPad Mini.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Original mistake to build lap-tabs was Apple's

        I've got to ask, what is an "Ipad Training Class" ?

        What level of intellect is required in order to attend such a class ?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Green Nigel 42

          Re: Original mistake to build lap-tabs was Apple's

          Please, make my shallow chauvinistic male anti PC day, is this Ipad Training Class in Essex, are they Blond?

  14. carlos_c

    What shelves

    Not seen a single surface in any shop in the uk ....if the product is not there no-one will buy it

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: What shelves

      MS only put them in shops the week before Christmas. Which is madness if you ask me! So it's actually quite impressive they sold any at all. Before that, they were trying to sell them online. I did see one switched off in John Lewis on Christmas Eve, and my brother said he's been in there the day before and an MS sales bloke had shown him it working, with the keyboard. But he bought an iPad the next week anyway... Oops.

      I've already got an iPad 3, I just wanted a play. If they have a fire sale, I might go for it anyway. But I'm also massively tempted by a Nexus 7, for no good reason other than "shiny".

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    give me a firesale

    and a MS-proof way to load a NORMAL Windows (ok, Android will do), and I will turn this jellyfish into a world's top best seller! :D

  16. flashguy

    Samsung Win 8 slate

    It may not be all bad news for Win 8, at least the non-rt version. I bought a samsung ativ smart pc over christmas and quite like it. But I didn't really get the point of RT, I wanted a slate I could use my laptop software on, I wanted an active digitizer for art and handwritten notes, and it was only $50 more than the Windows RT Surface. Frankly, given the price difference, I'm not really sure why someone would buy the Surface Pro coming in a few weeks over the Samsung either. It may be the future of Win 8 is on Samsung, not MS.

    1. hitmouse

      Re: Samsung Win 8 slate

      I hadn't heard of these devices, but the reviews indicate that it's limited to 2GB RAM and the processor is rather limited.

      I'd probably want the more costly Pro edition (4GB/i5/64GB) to compete with the Surface Pro and then the price differential starts disappearing.

      1. flashguy

        Re: Samsung Win 8 slate

        Yes, it may be the Surface Pro is a more competitive machine. I was a bit leery of the ativ's specs, but all I can say is that its performance has been much better than I suspected; it runs all my drawing apps (including Illustrator CS6) fine (at least if you only have one open at a time), and that 9 hours of battery life is awesome.

        1. flashguy

          Re: Samsung Win 8 slate

          I suppose it may be worth a warning for some people thinking about a Win 8 slate as a graphics slate. While as I've said I'm generally quite happy with mine, whoever made the decision to remove "Restore Previous Versions" from Windows 8 in favor a network share based solution should be shot. It's a slate OS fer chrissake! My laptop and its CAT 6 is my network share machine. Other than the loss of the function of "restore previous versions" functionality I'm happen. But that bit sucks, bit time.

          1. hitmouse

            Re: Samsung Win 8 slate

            What are the RT machines like for talking to cameras and the like?

            I just haven't found any useful scenario-based documents or videos for RT except for the "I like sliding coloured tiles around like an ADD crack-addict" scenario.

            Can one purchase and download music from the net?

  17. IGnatius T Foobar

    ARM+Android is the new Intel+Windows

    The wonderful thing about Android is that it runs on many different manufacturers' hardware. It is the mobile operating system of choice. As a proud owner of an Asus Transformer I can tell you straight away that conventional laptops are going the way of the dodo.

    ARM+Android is the new Intel+Windows. Long live the new leaders!

  18. RISC OS

    They charge too much...

    ...MS doesn't have the quality perception that makes it worth paying so much for so little.

    1. dssf

      Re: They charge too much...

      I saw one of these in Korea months ago, and I just saw one in SF a few nights ago. On the recent one, I saw a developer programming stuff on one. I didn't ask her what exactly she was programming, but she had a pen or wand, and was doing stuff on two on-screen keypads.

      That device is cheaper than RT, if RT is really around $1100. But, then, the Samsung device in the first link is $1,099.99. I have not compared specs.

      If a tablet finally gets to 17" so I can continue doing my CAD stuff, I'd be happy -- as long as it comes with a keyboard, supports and won't brick due to installation of Linux, and supports VirtualBox. 7lbs of 15" laptop is becoming wearying.

      I saw an RT or something like it from MS, at Best Buy, and despite it being from MS, I felt it was reasonably attractive, and I am someone who generally will deride MS in certain cases. So, if MS is facing this much non-traction, I wonder how much of it is just bad karma, and not simply going opposite of the market. I certainly am not one of those in the 7" tablet market.

      1. Chezstar

        Re: They charge too much...

        "If a tablet finally gets to 17" so I can continue doing my CAD stuff, I'd be happy -- as long as it comes with a keyboard, supports and won't brick due to installation of Linux, and supports VirtualBox. 7lbs of 15" laptop is becoming wearying."

        I don't get it, you want your new tablet to be....exactly like your old laptop?

        If a tablet finally has a keyboard, and a 17" screen, and runs my apps, and linux, and virtualbox, and and and makes waffles, and wakes me up before it go goes, and, wait...It exists already, its a laptop. And if you want all those addons as part of a tablet, its going to weigh 7lbs. You are just calling it something different.

      2. hitmouse

        Re: They charge too much...

        The Surface RT is more like $500. It's the Surface Pro that's over $1000.

  19. codecorax

    Can't wait to get one, it will look splendid on the shelf next to my HP TouchPad.

  20. Levente Szileszky

    Typical Ballmerian end result...

    ...due to their utter incompetence, paired with the bald, fat, angry chair-throwing beancounter's stupid arrogance.

    " “Reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best,” was how IDC’s Ryan Reith put it."

    Hahaha, it's nice to see the R(e)T(arded) version tanking so badly that even the ever-friendly suckup-type so-called "analyst" is having issues to find the nicest euphemism to describe the newest Ballmerian fuckup.

    "Redmond’s mistake: releasing a large-size tablet just as world+dog were realising they want smaller ones."

    Not only that but it's 1. NEARLY USELESS 2. PRICED TWICE AS HIGH as its far more capable competitors cost... breathtaking MSFT stupidity.

    Heck, if it were, say, $300 AND it would RUN 2012 RSAT I MIGHT get one for the company, solely to run monitoring/server tools, keeping it in a dock.

    But it does not do it and it comes at a price a full ThinkPad can be had - a typical, very expensive blunder by Ballmer's MSFT.

    Again, bubble-living, arrogant beancounters with no clue about neither the market nor technology like Ballmer will always bleed money until they get fired. The question raises itself: HOW LONG BALLMER CAN BLEED MONEY?

  21. dssf

    Comparison of Surface Pro vs Surface RT

    I might have been confused in my just-previous post. This might interest some, though.

  22. mmeier

    The problems with RT [as well as ios or Android]:

    It does not run the programs and tools I use for my hobbies

    Most have No active digitizer making using many forums time consuming

    Different programming model, I can not run a quickly written Java Swing or .Net application

    Software is less mature, just dropped a Note 10.1 for that reason

    With the Atom based W8 tablets having more power and similar duration the ARM based tablets are less attractive, even more true for RT. And with Haswell coming in, giving core-i base tablets with 6+ hours runtime at 800-900 gram there are many who prefer a "wait and buy a Helix/Duo 11b or similar" in Q3 attitude

    And rightly so in my opinion since a tablet pc is vastly more useful than a mere tablet

  23. the J to the C

    I really want one

    Oh so much, it looks so cool, the problem is I have a ipad, playbook and and a kindle and apart from the kindle none of them really add value, the surface looks like it would but finding it hard to get my wife to agree to it

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I really want one

      I think the problem is everyone is waiting for the Surface Pro.

      ARM may be lovely, but compatibility has always been king with Windows.

  24. David Strum

    "Hi I’m a Mac, and this is my sister Paddy"

    Blame the guy – pretending to be CEO of a highly advanced – sophisticated – awesomely cool – technology corporation. The Bald-guy needs to take a back seat; he’s been an utter frump for MS, ever since Vista wrecked the reputation of MS. I don’t think Apple will run those “Im a Mac, Im a PC” adds anymore – it would be in poor taste – like kicking a dead dog.

    Hhhhuuuurr – makes me shiver if those adds were to show up again; “Hi I’m a Mac, and this is my sister Paddy, she’s cool; Hi I’m a PC, this is my Grandma – and she cleans surfaces by licking with her tongue. She sucks.”

  25. Jason Hindle Silver badge


    If El Reg could give tight arsed me a teensy weensy little warning of the fire sale? That would be much appreciated. Oh, and thanks in advance.


  26. Zot

    People hating 'that bald guy'

    But he has always looked and sounded like a dodgy used car salesman, or that shouty guy from the double glazing advert.

    Unfortunately, now they've forgotten what this message means...

  27. Great Bu

    Getting a bit worried now....

    There have been two good solid opportunities for a good anti-MS rant today and yet Eadon remains silent.

    Has anyone seen him today ? Is it too soon to get search and rescue involved ?

  28. Philippe

    Ballmer is a genius

    The anti Ballmer rants are getting old.

    Let us look at the evidences?

    How many CEO do you know who cocked up products launch after products launch for a decade and are still in the job?

    Exactly, he is unique

    How many CEO do you know who can do Chimps impressions on stage?

    again he is a star

    How many CEO do you know who could take part in the Chair throwing world championship and win?

    Again, yes you got it. Unique I am telling you

    long live Ballmer

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