As Microsoft officially announces the prices for its eagerly awaited ‘pro' line of Windows 8 tablets, reports emanating from Taiwan suggest that its recently released Surface RT tablet is struggling to make an impact.
The Microsoft tablet Surface is unveiled during a news conference. AFP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
The Digitimes reports that the device's upstream supply chain has seen orders halved, meaning that rather than hitting predicted sales of 4 million before the end of 2012, Microsoft now only expects to sell 2 million tablets before the end of the year.
The Surface RT has had a bumpy ride since its launch on October 26. Despite a lavish advertising spend and a host of positive reviews from tech journalists regarding the quality of the hardware on offer, many early adopters were unaware that its Windows RT operating system was not compatible with other forms of Windows and that any existing Windows apps or software a potential owner had, would not be compatible with the device.
Once Microsoft improved its staff briefings and took steps to rectify the problem, benchmarking tests revealed that the operating system took up too much space on the device, meaning that buyers who had opted for the entry-level 32GB model, only had 16GB of available storage space.
Microsoft has not yet released any official sales data regarding its first tablet's sales. Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted in French national daily newspaper Le Parisien as saying that sales had started "modestly" and highlighted that distribution was the major reason. Outside North America, the Surface RT is only available via Microsoft's website.
Contrast that statement with Apple's press briefing on November 5 when it announced it had sold 3 million iPads and iPad Minis in three days, leading its CEO, Tim Cook, to say: "We set a new launch weekend record and practically sold out of iPad minis. We're working hard to build more quickly to meet the incredible demand."
These teething problems have led many in the industry to speculate that Microsoft would launch its Pro tablet range in early December and could even drop its retail price, in order to generate a much-needed sales boost.
However, the company announced on Thursday that the entry-level Surface Pro would retail at $899 in the US and would not be available until January 2013. Aimed primarily at corporate users, the Surface Pro, unlike the Surface RT will run a full version of Windows 8 (the company's latest operating system) and will therefore be compatible with legacy apps and software.