Surface Sales Estimates Are Bleak, Microsoft Thinks Better Marketing Will Save the Day

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Microsoft Surface TV ads

Predictions and estimates offered last week for the early sales numbers for Microsoft’s Surface tablet line don’t paint a very pretty picture. They’re pretty bleak in fact – especially considering how heavily hyped and marketed the Surface RT and Surface Pro have been.

Here’s some details from a Bloomberg story on this:

Microsoft has sold little more than a million of the Surface RT version and about 400,000 Surface Pros since their debuts, according to three people, who asked not to be named because sales haven’t yet been made public. The company had ordered about 3 million Surface RTs, they said. Brent Thill, an analyst at UBS AG, had initially expected Microsoft to sell 2 million Surface RT devices in the December quarter alone.

Based on Apple’s last reported quarterly results it looks like more iPads are sold every week than the total number of Surface devices sold in four and half months (the Surface RT launched in late October of 2012 and the Surface Pro in early February of this year). If Bloomberg’s numbers are anywhere near accurate, then Surface is really not making much of a dent in the tablet arena at all.

I’ve said before I think Microsoft has been clueless in the mobile space for years now, and their approach on the Surface is just further proof of this. They’re tablets that aren’t really tablets, tablets that really want to be PCs, tablets that sound as if they have to have a keyboard in order to be useful.

Another perfect example of how out of touch Microsoft remains in this area comes in the Bloomberg report. As MG Siegler points out, apparently they believe that there’s a marketing fix for the disappointing sales:

Microsoft is taking steps to turn around the tepid demand. The software maker is trying to rejigger its marketing for Surface RT, said two of the people familiar with the company.

I’ll admit I think the Surface TV ads are bizarre and likely ineffective, but this also reminds me of the early days of the iPhone – when so many Microsoft fans wrote off the iPhone’s success as being all due to slick marketing. Nothing to do with Windows Mobile being dated or the ground breaking nature of the iPhone itself – all just Apple smoke and mirrors.

Microsoft itself still seems to have a bit of this blinkered attitude when it comes to the iPad and the tablet space in general. Their Surface message seems to rely heavily on positioning it as the tablet to do real work on, not just a tablet for playing with – with the obvious implication being that that’s what the iPad is.

I think some day Microsoft needs to wake up and smell a bit of reality. Recognize that the iPad and Android tablets are not way, way ahead of Surface because of great marketing. They’re leaving Surface in the dust because they’re just better tablets. New dance routines in the Surface ads aren’t going to fix that.


Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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3 thoughts on “Surface Sales Estimates Are Bleak, Microsoft Thinks Better Marketing Will Save the Day”

  1. I actually bought a Surface Pro the week it came out, tried to like it, and returned it less than 48 hours later. Microsoft has failed to include certain accessibility features in Windows 8/RT that Apple has had since iOS 5, like AssistiveTouch. I actually use JumpDesktop on my iPad to control my Windows 8 desktop because I can use the iOS accessibility options “on top” of Windows 8. I’m quite disappointed (bordering on upset) with Microsoft for these major oversights; it has to make you wonder what else they left out.

    1. That is very disappointing to hear Kevin. And judging by many of the reviews I’ve seen there are a lot of other things that were left out or not very well implemented.

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